Recycle Your Media – Going, Seeing, Saving Green

For Brian Musil, Recycle Your Media is more than just a company name. It has become a mantra. “It’s a worthy cause,” he says of the business he founded in 2005 to recycle data tape media. “I feel good about what we do everyday.” Little wonder. Since 2005, the company based in Newport Beach, Calif., has recycled more than 2.25 million tape cartridges, diverting some 15.4 million pounds of material from ever-shrinking landfills.

In keeping with his “green” philosophy, tapes that are damaged and which cannot be recycled are incinerated in a waste-to-energy plant. An estimated 99 percent of tapes which come in to the company are able to be refurbished, Musil notes.

That’s good news for the many businesses — banks, universities, health care institutions, major corporations and government agencies — looking to both recoup some of the costs of their media when no longer needed and to save precious dollars when having to purchase new tapes.

Recycle Your Media not only purchases tapes from companies, including shredding companies and e-waste recyclers, but sells 50,000 to 100,000 pieces of media each month, primarily to dealers but also to end-users. In effect, companies that need to dispose of no longer needed or outmoded data tapes can see green, save green and be green. “We handle everything from old legacy media to the newest market products,” Musil says.

At its plant in San Jose, Calif., Recycle Your Media inspects and refurbishes the tapes — ensuring that all information is securely erased and that the tapes can be reused — then resells the media.

Musil stresses that the company meets or exceeds policies relating to data destruction set out by agencies including the Department of Defense and under the HIPAA Privacy Rule Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, among others.

“With new privacy legislation in the United States and increasing concern about corporate espionage, we’ve seen an increase of about 40 percent in our data eradication services,” he says. “Our customers include law firms, banks and other entities that deal with sensitive data. We bring the media in, eradicate the data stored on it, and then resell the storage products to other users.” The company this year has seen its business increase 107 percent over the previous year. It employs 32 people.

Recycle Your Media utilizes a degaussing machine to erase the media. It has also developed technology to degauss tapes which use servo track technology.

Even with the advent of cloud storage — utilizing central remote servers to archive information — large companies and institutions still are remaining with tape, Musil and others report. While smaller businesses have shifted to cloud storage — he admits that his company is among them — there is still a huge demand for data tape to archive and protect information.

“It really hasn’t affected us,” he says of the small companies moving to cloud storage. “We’re dealing with the big data centers and not small enterprises.” Indications are that those big data centers and IT departments will remain with tape for the long term.

“Despite predictions of its death, tape’s demise as a protector of newly generated information is far from imminent,” says a 2010 report from the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). “It still remains the most predominant repository for historical information — specifically vital business records, some of which could be a liability if requested as part of a regulatory or legal matter. “Tape is the predominant storage media used for data protection due to its portability and, from an acquisition cost perspective, its price,” ESG notes. “What most do not realize is that, despite the uptick in investments in disk-based backup solutions, tape is still a staple in this area.” The ESG report found that 82 percent of organizations still use tape to support all or a portion of on-site backup processes. That figure was down only 5 percent from a similar survey conducted in 2008.

A survey in the UK also found that tape storage was a top priority for businesses there. The UK survey of 1,000 business found that 83 percent of respondents still use tape storage systems to back up and protect their information. It also found that 24 percent planned to purchase additional tape systems in the coming year. “Even with the adoption of disk-based storage solutions over the past decade, tape clearly remains widely used as a key part of most organizations’ data management and protection strategies,” the survey says. The largest tape cartridge today can hold 5TB of data. Other studies have found that compared to diskbased storage, tape is less expensive per gigabyte of storage space and has lower operating and energy costs.

“The notion that ‘tape is dead’ ignores the substantial evidence that favors tape as a lower cost, environmentally friendly removable medium that is well suited for offline data protection as well as high growth compliance, fixed content and archiving applications,” says Mark Peters, a senior analyst with ESG. “Tape continues to play an important role in the protection and preservation of an organization’s digital assets,” adds Rob Clark, senior vice president with Quantum’s disk and tape backup product group. A perfect example of that occurred in early 2011 when a software bug struck Google, leaving an untold number of Gmail users — estimated in the tens of thousands — with empty email accounts. “I know what some of you are thinking: how could this happen if we have multiple copies of your data, in multiple data centers? Well, in some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That’s what happened here,” a Google official told upset and frustrated customers. “ . . . To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they’re protected from such software bugs.” Those types of advantages for tape media all point to a bright future for Recycle Your Media, which has annual sales of about $10 million. Musil notes that less than 3 percent of computer data backup tapes are currently recycled, providing the company with a huge potential for growth. He compares it to the recycled toner industry. “Recycled toner holds over 30 percent of the entire market of toner sold,” he says. “Recycled toner is now sold by every major office supply store. The recycled tape industry has brought the quality level to that of new tape. Now we just need to create the awareness to the users that recycled tape is not only a technologically sound product [but] it makes sense with the economical and ecological advantages.” Musil says the company is continuing to expand and would eventually like to have a processing facility outside the United States to serve its overseas clients. It has customers in more than 40 countries.

“Were shipping tons of media from Europe to us and it would be great if we could just keep it there,” he says. “It would be greener, too [by eliminating shipping].” Recycle Your Media provides customers with a full chain-of-custody on all tape media acquisitions. That includes scanning at a customer site the barcodes on every tape to be erased, transporting and keeping the media in locked containers, scanning the tapes a second time at Recycle Your Media before they are erased, then having the customer verify thelist. A certificate of data destruction is provided to the customer once the tapes have been confirmed that they were erased and tested for reuse. Musil also offers customers on-site data destruction. “If you have ultra-sensitive data and need Recycle Your Media to erase the data on every data

tape at your facility we can,” he tells customers. “We will bring the equipment on-site for erasure and scan every tape and provide a volume serial number report (VOLSER) for your records.”

Other services include data migration, data recovery and forensic analysis. Keeping tape out of landfills has been a primary goal. Typically, the media would be shredded and then landfilled. To avoid that from happening, Musil works with shredding companies and e-waste recyclers to purchase tapes that they may receive from their clients. “That’s a win-win situation for everyone — including the environment,” he says. “Shredding is not only bad for the environment but it costs a lot of money to do,” he says of tape destruction. “So we’re alleviating two of those major concerns. Plus, we’re helping businesses recoup some of their initial investment.” Before launching Recycle Your Media, Musil worked in marketing. One of his clients was a toner company that was starting a new division to recycle tape. He eventually joined the company and worked there two years; when it closed down, he went out on his own and started Recycle Your Media. “I liked the green aspect of it,” he says.

(Information about Recycle Your Media is available on the web at http://recycleyourmedia.com/ - or by calling 949-757-0100 or via email at buyback@recycleyourmedia.com).

Cover of the magazine Security & Shredding Storage News, November/December 2011