Green PC Responsibility: Donation Not Enough

By Doug Bartholomew  |  Posted 2008-09-24 Print this article Print

Simply getting rid of the problem of PCs' end-of-life disposal issue by donating them isn't a responsible approach, Daoud asserts. "Typically that's not good," he explains. "Companies have been neglecting their environmental responsibilities through the donation process. In most cases, it just transfers the responsibility to a religious organization. It's okay if they track where the boxes go, but not many organizations do this."

In 2006, 40 percent of companies donated their used up PCs, while 30 percent sold or gave them to employees and another 30 percent recycled them. The most expensive route of disposal, Daoud says, is to refurbish PCs to be reused. The most expensive approach is to "cascade" or reimage the machines, at an average cost of $468 per machine. The cost per machine to donate them averaged $398. Other alternatives include remarketing the product, $192, and simply throwing it away, $255.

Daoud recommends IT groups query prospective PC vendors for a cost analysis and environmental assessment of their machines at end-of-lifecycle. They should "assist with the end to end lifecycle strategy," he says. He also suggests that companies choosing to dispose of their PCs through recycling demand full access to the recycling site.

"Full access is important because there is so much -grey' activity," Daoud says, meaning shipping PC waste to developing countries for unsafe recycling or disposal there, or sending it to prisons where the machines are dismantled and processed with inmate labor.

"IT organizations should ask about the final destination of their assets, to find out exactly where their PCS will end up going," Daoud says. "Even with some of the largest PC vendors, it's not clear where these systems are going. The idea is that you want to avoid the use of the grey market, which is difficult to monitor."

Doug Bartholomew is a career journalist who has covered information technology for more than 15 years. A former senior editor at IndustryWeek and InformationWeek, his freelance features have appeared in New York magazine and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. He has a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University.

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