Vista adoption could drive PC recycling as users upgrade

Dell's free recycling scheme is up and running in New Zealand

Adopting Microsoft’s Windows Vista could trigger an increase in computer recycling, as customers scramble to update to new PCs capable of running the operating system.

Vendors such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard are already preparing to process a surge of discarded outmoded computers, according to US reports.

Dell has been offering free recycling of Dell computers in New Zealand since January, says Australian and New Zealand corporate communications manager Paul McKeon.

Computers can be handed in to Dell’s partner, Remarkit, which is based in Wellington. Dell will also pick up computers from outside Wellington for a courier fee, he says.

“It is likely [that the release of Vista will] prompt many people to consider buying a new PC to get the best Vista experience,” he says. “We’d wholeheartedly welcome an increase in computer recycling. In fact, our chairman, Michael Dell, recently challenged the rest of the industry to follow our lead in offering recycling options to all customers.”

Businesses and consumers replacing their computers are faced with the question of how best to dispose of them without dumping toxic lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium into local landfills.

Dell’s recycling scheme is generally intended for computers that have reached the end of their useful life, says McKeon. Once collected, they are dismantled, and materials like metal, glass, plastic and copper are recycled with Remarkit’s help.

Dell recovered more than 50 tonnes of used equipment in New Zealand last year. The company held one of its most successful free recycling days in the world in Wellington in September, says McKeon.

“Back in 2005, the company announced plans to triple the volume of products recovered worldwide by 2009,” he says.

Under its asset recovery service, HP offers its corporate and enterprise customers the option of handing in their old computers for refurbishment, resale or recycling, says Annukka Sairanen, HP’s South Pacific environmental manager. Products that are past their resale date are taken to a recycle plant in Australia, where they are dismantled. The different materials are separated and sold on the international market for recycled products, she says.

“Asset recovery service has been very successful in New Zealand,” says Sairanen. “Over the last financial year [more than] 6,000 units were diverted from landfills through HP’s refurbishment [programme]. Over 200 corporate and enterprise customers in New Zealand participated in the programme.”

Last year, HP recycled 3,100 tonnes in the Asia-Pacific region. The year before, the volume was half of that.

“More customers are becoming environmentally aware and are making environmentally sound choices [around] their everyday equipment,” she says.

HP’s worldwide target is to recycle one billion pounds (453,600 tonnes) by the end of 2007. Sairanen is confident the company will reach this goal as it has already recycled 417,000 tonnes to date.

HP is still working on a recycling scheme for consumers in New Zealand, she says.

A potential concern for IT managers is to protect data saved on discarded machines. While strongly recommending that all customers remove any personal or sensitive information from the hard drive before a machine is handed in for refurbishment or recycling, both Dell and HP offer data destruction services.

“If a customer wants a Department of Defence data-wipe we can provide that service,” says Kamila Wroblewski, HP’s South Pacific manager of technology-value solutions.

When it comes to recycling, the hard drive is mechanically destroyed according to Department of Defence standards, says HP’s Sairanen.

Wroblewski recommends customers check out how a company deals with recycling issues before buying.

“Not every organisation that claims to perform this type of work has high standards. They may call [a process] recycling, but [units] may not actually be recycled — they may end up in landfills.”

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