Every year, millions of tons of used electronics are sent to the landfills. All the discarded computers, phones, tablets and other devices add up to somewhere in the vicinity of 3.5 to 4 million tons of e-waste taking a lot of toxic materials with them into the environment (including lead, mercury, and cadmium).
Of course, the problem goes beyond just putting toxic materials in the environment. We’re also losing a lot of precious metals (gold, copper, and silver) that probably won’t be recoverable any time soon. Some estimates say that a metric ton of electronic scrap from personal computers could yield more gold than we could harvest from 17 metric tons of ore.
One option to deal with the growing level of e-waste is to refocus efforts on recycling – reclaiming all the materials possible before the device heads to the landfill. This may be a good solution that can have a beneficial impact on the environment, but, when it gets right down to it, how will that help your business?
There is a way to minimize your negative impact on the environment while cutting costs and providing good equipment for your employees. Instead of recycling for base materials, more companies are turning to refurbished computers and other devices to meet their IT needs.
Part of sustainable, green business plan is the way in which companies use and, more importantly, dispose of technical equipment. There are many ways for a company to cut down on its carbon footprint, but if you are just pouring mercury back into the land when you upgrade your computers and servers, there’s still a lot of room to improve.
Green computing refers to the efficient design, manufacture, use and disposal of technical equipment. This can include a recycling plan for unsalvageable products, but for more immediate benefit a company can purchase refurbished equipment to save money while extending the life of computers and other equipment that would otherwise be discarded in (historically speaking) questionable ways.
Refurbished vs. Recycled
Recycling is about breaking down computers that are too old or too broken to be useful in a modern company. In these cases, parts may be harvestable, but in general this process is about getting at the raw materials like the gold and copper. Both recycling and refurbishing computers have beneficial aspects from an environmental standpoint, but the latter is more likely to aid a company as it grows.
Refurbished vs. Used
There is a large difference between buying refurbished equipment and computers that are simply “used.” More specifically, refurbished computers are cleaned, tested, reconfigured, and re-warrantied before they are put back up for sale. They are held up against the original manufacturer’s specifications, and they must be able to meet those performance standards or they go into the recycling pile.
“Used” computers, on the other hand, could mean almost anything. They likely haven’t been cleaned or configured to match your needs, and they certainly won’t have all the necessary updates and warranties. These computers could come from anywhere, and may have been subjected to uses that are counter-indicated in the manual. Most refurbished computers, in comparison, are normally off-lease models, meaning that they were likely used for very specific purposes and have relatively modern specs.
The Benefits to Business
Many businesses are gravitating towards refurbished equipment for several reasons. The most obvious is the simple cost savings. By avoiding the newest, straight-off-the-shelf products, companies can save a lot of money which can then be budgeted for other activities.
When companies go this route, they can also get computers that have been certified by the manufacturers to ensure a high level of performance. This means that even though the price is much lower, there’s no reduction in quality. The extensive tests these products go through are designed to catch any potential defects that should be corrected before going back out on the market.
Some manufacturers have hundreds of employees just to deal with assessing off-lease computers and their potential value. There are many more people who take care of the testing and certification process. By the time it’s all said and done, the computers that are sold as refurbished present a great opportunity for businesses, whether they’re working on a shoestring budget or trying to deal with special projects, unexpected changes, or anything else that might require a fast or temporary capacity increase.
More and more companies are choosing to go with refurbished IT equipment. They might be doing it to reduce their carbon footprint or to save some extra money. Either way, this is a growing trend that provides some great opportunities from a business and environmental standpoint.
Jared Jacobs has professional and personal interests in everything technology. As an employee of Dell, he has to stay up to date on the latest trends and breakthroughs in large enterprise solutions and consumer electronics buying trends. In his spare time he is tinkering with sound systems and other awesome gadgets he can get his hands on. He’s also a big Rockets and Texans fan.