Moving Beyond IT Recycling: The Sustainable Alternatives

Here at Techbuyer we argue that IT recycling is not enough to solve the global electronic waste (e-waste) problem that is wreaking havoc on our planet. IT recycling is a part of our disposal process however, it is the last resort rather than the main objective.

Whilst it is true that recycling is an integral part of creating a circular economy model in the IT industry, current recycling technologies are limited and unable to fully recover many of the EU’s Critical Raw Materials in IT devices or, crucially, the carbon invested in their production. 57.4 million tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste) were produced in 2021 alone, and this figure is only set to grow. Because of the inefficiency of current recycling methods, even if we recycled every IT device in the e-waste mountain, there would still be copious amounts of wasted materials. Therefore, solely focusing on recycling technology to solve the e-waste crisis is just not going to cut it. We must all look for and utilise alternatives, especially while recycling remains so wasteful.

The Hierarchy of Waste

The Hierarchy of Waste is a diagram we developed to illustrate the desirability of different tech disposal solutions. Our aim is to ensure that materials are directed towards the top of the waste hierarchy. For the tech industry, this looks like the inverted pyramid below, with reuse as the best option and recycling as the last resort. By prioritising the top end of the hierarchy, we can maximise the value we get from our resources and remove the need to emit more carbon.

The Alternatives to Recycling

Reuse

Technology reuse is what we at Techbuyer strive for. Reuse is the optimal outcome because it guarantees that 100% of a device's composition will remain in use and will not be wasted, extending the device’s lifespan. Technology reuse is not always a straightforward process, as most organisations process and store sensitive data. They have a legal duty to protect this data; simply re-selling data-bearing IT equipment would be a breach of GDPR and could result in legal action. This is where Techbuyer comes in. We use state-of-the-art data-erasure software to completely sanitise data-bearing IT equipment. We then utilise our global sales infrastructure to identify secondary users and re-sell the equipment. This generates a financial rebate for our clients (calculated by deducting the incurred disposal costs from the potential resale value of the IT equipment). In 2021, we gave out over £1 million in ITAD rebates!

Redeployment

IT redeployment refers to the refurbishment and redeployment of IT assets within a business. For example, a PC may no longer be able to consistently support mission-critical functions, but it could be ideal for more basic administrative functions. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because tech no longer meets our individual needs, it is no longer useable. Because of the sheer scale of IT infrastructure that modern organisations require, effective technology redeployment strategies are essential not just from an environmental point of view but also from a cost-efficiency perspective. By adopting a redeployment strategy, you can reduce the amount of waste your company produces and also save money! Even technology that can no longer be used in a business environment could completely change the life of a school child in Africa or a refugee fleeing conflict.

At Techbuyer, we partner with lots of amazing charities like Reusing IT, IT Schools Africa and Yorkshire Aid Convoy which donate functional IT equipment to those who need it most.

Remanufacturing

According to the Remanufacturing Industries Council (US), remanufacturing is the process of returning a used or non-functional product or part to like-new, same-as-when-new, or better-than-when-new condition in terms of quality and functionality. This process is performed in a safe and controlled environment. Remanufacturing IT hardware can add years to a product's useful life and remove the need for IT disposal altogether. In addition, studies have shown that remanufacturing uses 50% - 80% less energy than the production of new parts, making it considerably more environmentally friendly.

At Techbuyer, we sell a wide variety of quality remanufactured IT hardware that performs as a good as new! We are so confident about the performance of our remanufactured IT hardware that we provide an industry-leading 3-year warranty as standard.

Component Harvesting

Component harvesting is essential for the circular economy. Even if an IT device is no longer functional and is beyond repair, the parts inside can still be used in remanufactured or refurbished devices and in IT repairs. The recycling process aims to extract some materials from IT devices and use them to make new parts, whereas component harvesting involves transferring functional IT parts from one device to another. Component harvesting is so important for a circular IT economy because older technologies can still be repaired and upgraded with harvested parts.

Recycling

As we have already discussed, IT recycling is not yet developed enough to tackle the e-waste problem and support a circular economy. We must utilise and prioritise recycling alternatives to create a truly circular IT industry. As pressure on Critical Raw Materials grows, making the most of what we have and using devices to their fullest potential has never been more important. We must adapt our IT disposal habits to prolong technology use.

Techbuyer’s Sustainable IT Disposal Services

Techbuyer is a global provider of sustainable IT solutions and a major aspect of this is the environmentally friendly disposal of technology. We offer a range of services to diminish the impact that your used technology can have on the planet. Our component-level upgrade and repair services are available to extend the lifespan of your device by boosting performance and undertaking necessary maintenance. However, if your technology has reached the end of its useable life with you, our IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) and Sell to Us services offer an environmentally friendly method of IT disposal with a guaranteed zero-to-landfill policy. Find out more about our lifecycle services or get in touch to find out about what we can do for you.