Big players join computer recycling trend

"Bring us your dead" is the latest message from hardware manufacturers. Compaq New Zealand and IBM have joined a growing worldwide trend for the recycling of computers.

“Bring us your dead” is the latest message from hardware manufacturers.

Compaq New Zealand and IBM have joined a growing worldwide trend for the recycling of computers.

A redundant 20kg PC may seem almost worthless, but it contains 2kg of lead, plus copper and other metals.

With an estimated 500 million obsolete computers in the US, organisations there are working out what to do with them. The European Union is also developing laws on recycling electronic waste.

IBM last November launched a recycling programme in the US where it agrees to take PCs, monitors, printers and optional attachments for $US30. About 1000 PCs have been collected so far, with the company promising to refurbish or donate machines to charities, or to recover and recycle as much material as possible from the defunct devices.

IBM New Zealand spokesman Laurie Edwards says the US scheme is being rolled-out worldwide depending on regional environmental regulations and will probably arrive in New Zealand next year.

“But we already do some recycling here. Many of our computers are leased. When they come back off the lease, we rebuild them and lease them out again. We check the environmental credentials of companies we deal with and we use recycled plastics and casings in the manufacture of our products,” he says.

Compaq’s Asset Recovery Service organises the recycling or environmentally friendly disposal of obsolete computer equipment regardless of manufacture.

The service seeks parts for resale or re-use of components; it can retrieve, remove or destroy data; and includes customs reporting, ensuring disposal obeys local laws and company policies.

However, Compaq New Zealand spokeswoman Pamela Bonney says none of the Compaq corporate customers offered the service have yet used it. Launched in October 1999, it operates on a cost-recovery basis, is not available to the public and involves sending the waste to Australia.

Compaq New Zealand says it is not possible to dispose of technology waste in New Zealand, so is working with its trans-Tasman sister to implement its service.

With recycling partner MRI, Compaq Australia has collected more than 200 tonnes of computers and monitors in the past year. So far 150 tonnes of waste has been processed.

Of the 150 tonnes processed, only 7% has been sent to a landfill while 55% has been streamed into recycling, with metals such as copper making their way into a variety of new products, including coin blanks.

Last month, Hewlett-Packard said it would accept used equipment of any brand for recycling at a cost of $US14 to $US34. The US move supplements earlier HP waste-reduction initiatives, including its printer cartridge recycling programme, which has resulted in the recycling of more than 39 million HP LaserJet cartridges worldwide since 1992.

However, HP New Zealand spokeswoman Joanna Burgess says she is not aware of the latest initiative planned or taking place with HP across the Asia-Pacific.

In the US, PC seller Gateway offers a $US50 rebate to customers bringing in old PCs when buying a new Gateway model.

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