Feature

Recycling old PCs pays dividends

Throwing away out of date IT equipment is both wasteful and hazardous and it could soon be illegal, too.

Most UK companies are not ready for their IT to go green according to research from computer recycling company Selway Moore.

Of 150 senior managers questioned, 34% said they simply scrap used PCs, servers and IT hardware. This, says Phil Reakes, managing director at Selway Moore, suggests a degree of ignorance about the damage that could be caused to the environment by toxic materials in computers.

"Various plastics, cathode ray tubes and liquid crystals from the monitor screens, and heavy metals from IT equipment are all damaging to the environment and have to be disposed of in eco-friendly ways," he says.

"There are also issues of intellectual property and data protection - hard drives and discs need to be wiped so that there is no danger that confidential information will fall into the wrong hands."

Reakes points to planned EU legislation as a likely catalyst for companies to get their houses in order.

"Fifty-five per cent of companies are not aware of the EU's planned Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, which proposes stricter regulations for disposal of electronic equipment, including computer hardware. Companies caught not complying could be liable to substantial fines. The EU has approved the directive as a draft law, although it is not yet known when it will become law."

Reake points out that Hewlett-Packard has started to quote fees for taking away equipment. "This indicates that there is a real demand for this service," he says.

Companies are also reluctant to consider either buying secondhand IT equipment or selling on their used equipment, he says. The survey showed that 65% of companies did not consider recycled equipment when upgrading systems.

"Using refurbished hardware when upgrading systems is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than installing new hardware. By using refurbished equipment, of which there's a plentiful supply in the UK, companies can save money at the same time as getting technology which is as good as new. This is a strong incentive to go green."

Reakes says that by selling on old equipment companies can recoup up to 10%-15% of the cost of the original. One reason he gives for companies not recycling their equipment is that they do not have an idea of what they actually have. The first step, he says, is to carry out an audit of physical assets.

"This can be followed by a financial audit, where you work out market depreciation rates of certain pieces of IT kit, what the financial cycles and the roll-over periods are," he says.

For example, on average mid-range servers have a lifespan of about three years, and PCs two years. "Build these projections into your financial cycles," he advises.
The research found that responsibility for IT disposal is most likely to fall under the remit of IT managers or directors, with over half of the companies canvassed saying this was the case.

The report also showed a trend in the largest companies towards appointing a manager specifically to handle IT disposal.

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This was first published in November 2001

 

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