Encouraging disposal of equipment by businesses to hackspaces

Hi everyone, I’ve been in contact with different employees of companies that are disposing of equipment including industrial mills and computing equipment and some of their companies were reluctant to dispose of their equipment to us even though we’d be reusing it instead of recycling it or even landfilling it.

Has anyone gotten any experience on how to convince companies to trust a hackspace with the disposal job to put it to better use? The only thing I could think of is to get company registered as a volunteer group on the lower register for waste disposal: https://www.gov.uk/managing-your-waste-an-overview or just show them that we’ve read up on the rules by providing a waste transfer form?

Some companies will only issue equipment to registered recycling or waste disposal companies. Unless you want to register your Hackspace this way you will never appease them.

Some, however, are only concerned about liability. This was true of the NPL stuff a few years ago and a single A4 page absolving them of any responsibility was enough to proceed.

Some companies can be convinced that something fell out of the office one day before it was meant to be disposed of, especially when it isn’t computer related and thus has no risk of data.

The main issue I have come up against is, as Stuart said, one of them worrying about anyone get shocked or otherwise injured by said equipment, and them being held liable in court.
Maybe HSF could help with a standard wording form that we can present and sign, that transfers ownership and liability in a standard accepted way from company, to Hackspace.

I doubt you could transfer liability legally, the best you could do is show that someone understood the risk.

It would be easier if they gave to you as spares and repairs so as to suggest it is not usable, then for you to work it up to usable again.

The issue is when you go down this road there are tax implications.

WEEE waste needs an audit trail, and most places have an arrangement with the supplier of their electronics equipment to take it away and dispose of it when it’s done with.

This is because typically, or as it should be, all of the serial numbers are recorded, from sale to purchase to then who owns it.

If the item is found in landfill somewhere, and it was meant to have been ‘disposed of properly’ then that can be traced from where it was bought, who it was sold to and they have to provide proof that it was then passed on legitimately for disposal. If they can’t do that, they’re liable for where that item has ended up because they didn’t ensure it was ultimately disposed of properly.

This is a bit bonkers, because for example if a University buys a monitor from say, Dell, and then they don’t ask Dell to dispose of it properly under a contractual agreement, they let a member of staff take it home when they’re done with it, and then it’s found by the side of the road, then the University is hypothetically liable for it, they bought it, they didn’t ensure it was disposed of properly and it wasn’t reported stolen.

Unless you can give them the assurances they want or need legally or otherwise, they’re unlikely to give you their waste equipment. Some places may be lax about this, but really they shouldn’t be because of these scenarios, and there are so many fly tippers these days.

It’s likely why so many places/people/charities struggle to get electronics donated to them now as well when they say “we need spare laptops”. It’s because they have to be disposed of properly once used.

Offer to buy it for a nominal amount so ownership properly transfers and is receipted. Make sure the serial numbers are described and they are selling with no guarantee of functionality - e.g. as the ebay spares or repair category.

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These issues stem from items potentially being considered “waste” under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This applies to anything, not just electronics. Unfortunately the definition of waste is somewhat comically broad, and if you’re handling waste then you’ll normally need to be licensed (and businesses disposing of waste should check proof of this).

If an item is (mostly) functional and you’re going to reuse it for its intended purpose, it’s clearly not waste. Businesses should be happy with some paperwork saying that they’ve sold it to you - maybe with payment of a token sum. Any suggestion that a business is liable for injury caused by a piece of equipment they’ve sold you in an “as seen” condition is - in my opinion - complete bollocks.

If an item isn’t functional and you’re aiming to repair it, or it’s really old, this is where it gets annoying as it’s likely to be considered “waste”. Both you and the business giving you the item are technically breaking the law, unless you’re licensed.

You can get an exemption from the Environment Agency to handle up to 1000 tonnes of e-waste per year for the purposes of repair/reuse. It costs £1221 for 3 years and you have to follow a fairly strict set of rules if you do dispose of it. I think you’d need this in addition to being on the waste register.

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