Hard Drives

Recycling Method Protects Customers' Personal Data

Wayne Stanford, owner of A & A Auto & Truck in Shelby Township, Mich., added electronics to his recycling business.

Photo: Elite Photographic Studio


Proper recycling techniques protect the environment. At A & A Auto & Truck in Shelby Township, Mich., proper recycling techniques also protect customers from identity theft.
Wayne Stanford has owned the six-acre yard since 1999. The company processes more than 2,000 vehicles each year, as well as recycling up to 300 tons of steel each week. About a year ago, A & A Auto & Truck began recycling computer hard drives.

“We are a company that scraps and recycles all kinds of metals, and customers were bringing in old computers, electronics and hard drives,” Stanford said. “People were concerned about the safety of the information they had on their hard drives and how these hard drives would be recycled or destroyed.”

So A & A Auto & Truck added electronics recycling to its list of services and made sure it was doing it the right way. Because, even a hard drive that appears to be damaged or non-functioning can still retain information, Stanford stated.

“We’ve had computers that were melted, and the hard drive was all black and nasty, and you’d look at it and think, ‘What a piece of junk,’” he said. “Well, we’d fire it up and – boom – it had all the information on it.”

A & A Auto & Truck uses a tool called Hammer, manufactured by a data-recovery company CPR Tools. This portable device connects to the hard drive and erases all information stored there.
“Any data on the hard drive is completely gone and unrecoverable,” Stanford explained. “Then we will produce a ‘Certificate of Compliance’ for the customer. It will list the hard drive’s model, serial number, method of wiping the data and a pass / fail indicator to let them know if the eradication was successful. If the hard drive does not pass the Hammer process, we recommend physically shredding the drive.”

Hard drives that have been successfully erased can be used again. A & A Auto & Truck sorts the hard drives by model and stores them. When CPR Tools needs to recover data for a customer whose hard drive has crashed, they turn to A & A Auto & Truck to find a recycled hard drive in the exact model to aid in data recovery.

If A & A Auto & Truck has hard drives that CPR Tools doesn’t need, they’re often donated to churches, schools or other groups. A & A Auto & Truck does not resell the drives to anyone else.
The number of hard drives processed at A & A Auto & Truck has grown. During a typical month, the company will recycle about 2,000 hard drives, but in July that number jumped to 4,000. Stanford said he expects even higher numbers in the future.

“(Recycling hard drives) has given us another avenue to recycle and supplement our income with the labor, facility and methods we already have in place,” Stanford said. “It has given our customers another reason to come here.”

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