Health Care, Sustainability, and Technology

Partnership keeps electronics out of landfill

November 13, 2015
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Valley City Electronics
Valley City Electronics personnel ensure that any remaining data on Spectrum’s equipment is wiped clean in compliance with privacy regulations. Courtesy Valley City Electronics

A partnership between Spectrum Health and an electronics recycling firm is helping to keep 150,000 pounds of electronics out of landfills.

Sarah Chartier, sustainability program manager for Spectrum Health, said that number represents just one year’s worth of electronics diverted from landfills, thanks to the partnership between Spectrum Health and Valley City Electronics Recycling.

The two organizations have been partnering on electronics recycling since 2003.

“Electronic waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the country, and it’s important for us to properly dispose of it because a lot of our electronics contain things like mercury, lead, arsenic and flame retardants, which have a lot of impact on human health,” Chartier said.

Spectrum’s commitment to electronics recycling goes beyond its walls, she said. Chartier said Spectrum just completed a staff electronics recycling initiative.

“We went around and asked our staff if they had old electronics such as TVs, computers — anything with a plug, essentially — and Valley City collected that for us to responsibly recycle it,” she said.

Valley City also ensures that any data remaining on the various types of technology it picks up from Spectrum is wiped cleaned, in compliance with HIPAA and HITECH regulations.

“Protecting the privacy and security of our patients’ health information and adhering to the federal regulations is a top priority for us,” said Mary Delrue, Spectrum’s IT internal services manager.

Valley City conducts data wipes in compliance with U.S. Department of Defense standards to ensure data on Spectrum’s equipment is non-recoverable. The DOD standard wipes can take up to three hours, according to Dave Perry, Valley City general manager.

DOD data wipes are just one part of the security process Valley City undertakes in handling Spectrum Health’s electronics.

Perry said there are multiple steps Valley City follows to ensure Spectrum’s data remains secure through the recycling process. The first step occurs at the point of pickup.

“We pick everything up from Spectrum,” Perry said. “It goes directly from their control into our control with no third parties involved in that process.”

Spectrum and Valley City verify the assets that have been sent and received.

“We track every serial number that leaves our door and goes to Valley City to make sure any encrypted data we have on the asset has been properly wiped,” Delrue said.

“After its final disposal, we get a certificate back from Valley City, which tracks each serial number so we make sure that each asset has been properly and safely disposed of.”

Perry said the types of equipment coming to Valley City from Spectrum vary tremendously, which requires astute observation to locate data within the technology.

“You have no idea whether it has a hard drive in it or flash memory or something else,” he said. “We go through all the equipment to evaluate it, for value as well as anything that may contain data that needs to be wiped out.”

“Spectrum is a very large organization and not everyone can handle the volume that comes in from them,” said Jason Kehr, sales representative at Valley City. “It’s a tremendous responsibility.”

To keep up with demand from its customers, the electronics recycling firm relocated in 2014 to a 30,000-square-foot space at 2929 32nd St. SE in Kentwood.

Valley City also partners with other health care organizations in the community, and Spectrum Health said it also has a relationship with electronics recycling firm Comprenew.

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