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Dell revamps recycling programme

Dell has revamped its asset recovery programme, cutting the cost of disposing of old computers while complying with regulations on environmental and data protection.

The Asset Recovery Service will bring the cost of recycling a system comprising computer, monitor, mouse and keyboard in the US down to a fixed price of $49.95, as much as 50% cheaper than the previous, made-to-measure recycling service Dell offered.

The service can be ordered through Dell's website at the time of purchase of a new computer. The service will be available from 21 July.

"Customers have two primary concerns: protection of confidential data, and disposal within state and federal guidelines," said Ken Hashman, Dell's vice president of deployment services.

When Dell recycles a computer, data on the machine's hard disc is overwritten three times and the company will certify that the data has been erased and environmental regulations complied with.

Nevertheless, Hashman admitted that no system of data removal can be completely guaranteed, he said, and customers required to comply with strict data privacy regulations, such as those in the healthcare sector, may find it appropriate to destroy hard discs rather than erase them.

Two companies will recycle the computers for Dell: Resource Concepts of Dallas, and Image Microsystems of Los Angeles.

Pat Nathan, Dell's senior executive for the environment, called on companies to give the recycling industry a boost by clearing out their store cupboards. A survey of 900 companies commissioned by Dell found that almost four-fifths of them had old computers in storage.

"We are talking warehouses full, stockpiles that need to be removed. If we want to keep products out of landfills and off barges to third-world countries, we need to dislodge these stockpiles, get them into the recycling stream, and draw up demand for these services and for the by-products of recycling," Nathan said. 

While old computer equipment may no longer meet current demands for performance, the materials in it may still have some value which can be recovered through recycling.

"No computer should go to waste, there are many valuable materials in them, including precious metals," said Kate Krebs, executive director of the US National Recycling Coalition.

Dell offers an additional service, value recovery, under which it will return the scrap value of recycled computers, if any, to the customer for $10 more than the price of its basic recycling service.

The services announced Wednesday are only offered in the US, but Dell already offers recycling programs in other countries, and plans to expand those.

"We are rolling out similar offerings on a global basis. We are doing it this autumn in Europe. It's already going on in Asia," she said.

Despite the introduction by the European Union of a directive on computer recycling, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, the market for recycling services in Europe is still fragmented, she said: "Folk look at this as one big homogeneous network [of recycling services], but that's not the case."

Last week, Dell announced that it would no longer use Federal Prison Industries, which trades under the Unicor brand, to do this work. The US government-owned company has been widely criticised for employing prison labour to handle toxic waste.

Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Group


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