IT recycling: there is more!

IT recycling shredded material

Even at school we learn that recycling is actually a good thing. When disposing of the garbage, valuable secondary raw materials should be collected and made usable again. But in the case of discarded hardware, the calculation is not so positive: Firstly, some plastics, for example, cannot be separated from each other and other materials from the old devices, which means that the processing does not produce pure recyclable material - on the other hand, the usually very laborious separation and The recycling process is energetically questionable, so that the ecological balance for recycling IT is often not as positive as one might think. But then what are sustainable, practicable and economic concepts?

Scrap-ripe laptop and computer circuit boards
Scrap-ripe laptop and computer circuit boards

The mountain of rubbish grows with consumption

PCs, notebooks, tablets, but also monitors and smartphones have become fast-moving disposable items, at least in the western world. Many of the hardware components in German companies only have a short lifespan, because what is new is also considered good, safe and efficient. The same applies to private households. The intensity of use of IT increases from year to year - more and more people own IT devices themselves and use them at their increasingly digitized workstations at the same time. That sounds like good deals for the manufacturers at first. But according to UN forecasts, the mountain of electronic waste will also grow to around 2030 million tons by 74 - and that corresponds to tens of billions of dollars in material value, most of which remains unused. In fact, only about 17,4% of electronic waste is collected, recycled and returned to the cycle of use, whether as a valuable source of raw materials or refurbished IT.

First device test in incoming goods at bb-net
First device test in incoming goods at bb-net

Environmental protection can only be achieved through avoidance

Some refurbishers - special waste management companies for IT - dismantle the devices manually and sort the recyclable raw materials in order to then dispose of them according to type or return them to the cycle of goods as spare parts. This is a good step in order not to have to indiscriminately burn at least the different, sometimes very valuable material components of the hardware. But theoretically, this is only about containing the negative consequences of unchecked hardware consumption - but not about avoiding it. This can only be achieved through two things: a fundamental change in consumer awareness on the one hand and an effective lifespan extension for IT devices on the other. The calculation is shockingly simple: the longer we actively use hardware components and do not dispose of or replace them, the better it is for the environment. As a consequence, however, this also means: If IT is no longer operational due to wear and tear, obsolescence or damage, repairing, “refreshing” and all-round renewal up to upgrading must be the means of choice and only “if necessary” the pure one Material recycling.

Repair and upgrade of a notebook
Repair and upgrade of a notebook

“Used” must finally become socially acceptable

In order for more and more companies and end consumers to buy new goods more and more consciously, a lot has to happen on the part of the recyclers: The customer needs recycled IT that can hardly be distinguished from brand-new models in terms of appearance and performance. Only the so-called 1-A or 1-B goods can "compete" with new purchases and lead to rethinking. Because functional reliability and “up to date” performance are and will remain the most important parameters when choosing PCs, notebooks or mobile devices. In addition, there is user trust in established branded goods. So the range of excellently prepared brand IT must be significantly expanded so that IT refurbishing loses the negative image of the defective. Performance, data security and convenient usability “like new” at the push of a button - that is the motto. For this, the refurbishers have to do more than just clean and test: They have to set up processes that are holistically sustainable and, in principle, are similar to the production of new goods. This in turn requires experienced IT technicians and system experts, quality managers and logistics experts who understand the transfer business. In addition, there are competencies in the marketing sector, through which the completely overhauled IT can also be leased or rented, for example, and can thus even be added to a third life cycle.

Intensive test and installation of the refreshed devices
Intensive test and installation of the refreshed devices

From computer scrap to an attractive economic factor

The idea of ​​sustainability is at the center of customer communication for many refurbishers. This is also the aspect that every dealer, every system house, every entrepreneur and every end user can and must sign immediately. But in order to make IT recycling an economic factor that is independent of the season or pandemic, even more persuasion is necessary. The stigma of reduced performance is still attached to used hardware and that is why a new performance standard has to be applied to IT refurbishing: The keyword is "individual solution competence" instead of collection and disposal, because this is the only way to score points in the industry compared to purchasing new goods. In concrete terms, this means: The refurbishment partner must recognize what can be made of the (always!) Very heterogeneous IT portfolio of the customer as a whole, must be able to advise and accompany him, must present tailor-made usage concepts on a silver platter and together with him be able to manage it sustainably. The same applies to the needs of specialist dealers and system houses, who are less and less able to start with standard solutions because market requirements are constantly changing. Anyone who can give honest, fact-based answers to all of these questions and develop a meaningful cycle together with users and market intermediaries will bring IT refurbishment forward in the long term.

Process graphic purchase
bb-net process graphics for the purchase and data deletion of your IT


Why does it make sense to recycle old devices?

On the one hand, because one of the main reasons for the growing mountain of electronic waste around the world is the increasing use of IT hardware, which means that every IT user bears some responsibility. On the other hand, IT recycling is worthwhile for companies, organizations and authorities but also for purely economic reasons, because the supposedly outdated devices can often be converted back into high-performance notebooks, PCs or servers with just a few simple steps or targeted maintenance measures. The prerequisite for this is the competent assessment of the IT by a refurbishment expert, who thereby creates a concrete basis for decision-making for the operation:

  • Prepare the IT and sell it with a secure data solution for up to 15% of the new price and thus provide your own IT budget with liquidity for new investments.
  • Return IT to your own business process and thus avoid major expenses.
  • Develop a completely individual usage kit for IT - e.g. consisting of a part of personal use, part of donation, part of material recycling or part of resale.

In any case, the calculation with IT recycling is a smart one, because there is always added value that would otherwise simply have been burned.

Disposal and recycling - what is important?

Here, too, the inventory valuation comes first and can usually only be carried out by a specialist: What performance and increase in value could a notebook get, for example with new batteries, the latest operating system and excellent virus protection software? How long can the second life cycle for optical and technical repairs last? At what prices can used IT currently be sold? And how can the IT exchange, for example, with loan devices in the company be mapped without disruption? All of these questions arise before the decision “disposal or recycling” and should be answered transparently and conclusively by the refurbishment specialist.

Once the value of the IT portfolio in question has been determined, a decision must be made:

  1. Disposal, In other words, irretrievable destruction of raw materials and energy - this should only be considered if the device cannot be repaired optically or technically for further use, because disposal always means that resources are required.
  2. recycling, In other words, separation of the individual components of the device in order to either dispose of the components or groups of substances as separately as possible or to secure them as reusable spare parts - here the environmental aspect is in the foreground and less an economic benefit.
  3. refurbishment, In other words, quality-assured overhaul and repair of the devices in order to make them usable again or further marketable - this is about "keeping high-quality technology on the market" that is far from over.

Which IT is suitable for refurbishing?

In principle, any form of hardware including peripheral devices, monitors and accessories, but also cell phones, printers, servers or workstations is suitable for IT recycling, because all these components are full of valuable raw materials. For processing and re-marketing - i.e. refurbishment - devices are best suited that can be made functional or usable again with a reasonable amount of effort. For devices with a fundamentally higher purchase price such as laptops and notebooks, repair and upgrading are worthwhile in most cases. Broken displays can usually be replaced quickly and even keyboards can be re-printed, batteries are replaced and fans are thoroughly cleaned. The best reusable are the 1-A or 1-B goods - they are then also labeled as a brand by some refurbishers and can be used immediately by the buyer with the appropriate operating system and virus protection.

Who can use IT recycling?

The sustainable idea of ​​having used IT equipment properly disposed of is actually a matter of honor for every company today - but also for schools, authorities and organizations. Today, however, very few people know that a large part of their decommissioned IT could actually continue to be used, without security concerns or major compromises in terms of performance and service life. Since the innovation cycles of the manufacturers are turning faster and faster and new hardware comes onto the market almost every year, companies should think twice about the intervals at which they can and want to jump on the innovations carousel. The message of using refurbished IT in the company can actually be more important today for many employees than the regular upgrading with new goods. The donation of discarded IT to non-profit organizations would also be a contemporary message.

How safe is IT recycling?

It is important to hand over the used goods to companies that are verifiably also licensed data erasure and data destruction companies. The information on this is usually provided on the website. If the refurbisher has this seal of quality, you can confidently place the IT equipment in these hands. But you should also ask how exactly the goods are transported by the specialist company, because data protection begins "on the road". Can used devices, for example, be collected in lockable containers directly in the company? And is collection free of charge and in a sealed truck? But even when re-using recycled IT, many people ask themselves questions: For example, does the device have virus protection? And has all the previous user's data been securely deleted? Is there evidence of replaced parts in the form of process documentation? It is up to the refurbishers to arrange all of this. The trustworthy is characterized by transparency and willingness to engage in dialogue - IT recycling is always safe with them.