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Don't toss your old software - save money by recycling it!

Did you ever wonder what happens to the unsold old versions of software when new versions are released? Some software manufacturers put them in landfills at a rate of 16 million [ft.sup.3] a year. Others, who have concerns about still usable software finding its way into unauthorized hands, put them through tree shredders, burn them, drill holes in them, or store them in secure warehouses.

David Beschen, president of GreenDisk, Woodinville, Wash., relieves software firms of these problems by offering a service that recycles more than 99.5% of the obsoleted products. The cost of this service is less than that of conventional disposal methods and offers software firms the ability to buy back computer diskettes with a higher quality than those from conventional diskette manufacturers and at a lower cost.

GreenDisk recycles more than 50,000 lb a day, six days a week, of returned or obsoleted software, such as that from IBM, Microsoft, Lotus, Autodesk, and Aldus.

Pilot programs have also been started with non-software manufacturers, such as Pacific Northwest Laboratories (PNL), Dow, AT&T, and US West, to recycle their used software products.

Software disposal at these firms is a major concern. PNL, for example, destroyed 4,423 software packages in 1993. Through the first half of 1994, they recycled 2,767 packages, according to Michael Kanyid, a PNL information systems staff member.

"An organization's main concern in disposing of old software is security," says GreenDisk's Beschen. They want an audit trail that ensures their software is destroyed and that their intellectual property is not compromised.

Incoming products to GreenDisk are weighed, tagged, and sorted by source to provide this audit capability. All diskettes are degaussed on an automated conveyor system. Those diskettes destined for reuse can be reformatted and relabeled.

Reusable diskettes often have been written-to only once on a high-speed duplicator and never read. Since diskettes can be written-to more than 30,000 times, they still have more than 99.99% of their life remaining. And because software firms use only premium diskettes in their software packages, recycled diskettes are of higher quality than those found on retail shelves--often more than 30% higher quality.

Diskettes written-to many times are disassembled by GreenDisk. The metal slides are shipped to metal recyclers, while the plastic envelopes are pelletized and sent to plastic recyclers.

Manuals are shredded and shipped to paper mills, while binders are distributed to local schools. Even the plastic film shrink wrap is recycled as stuffing for archery targets. "Only 10 lb per ton of software sent to us finds its way to a landfill," says Beschen.

"We send degaussed media that can't be used for new diskettes to Chinese companies, who cut them into strips for use in credit cards," he says. "Their cost for conventional media is $15 a lb, while we sell it for 18 cents a lb. The additional labor cost for cutting the media is less than the difference in material costs."

Now that Beschen has developed the legal and mechanical procedures for recycling software, he is working on setting up 10 regional facilities, so companies don't have to waste energy shipping software to Washington. He also is developing procedures for recycling CD-ROM software.

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Title Annotation:GreenDisk Inc.
Author:Studt, Tim
Publication:R & D
Date:Dec 1, 1994
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