Dell tackles IT waste in recycling push

The PC manufacturer is beefing up its business and consumer reuse and disposal schemes ahead of new EU legislation, but is vague about the pricing

Dell has launched an improved recycling programme for UK business customers ahead of impending European legislation that will force the industry to take more responsibility for equipment disposal.

The Dell Asset Recovery Service (ARS), launched last week, allows business customers to recycle or resell redundant computer equipment including servers and computer peripherals.

Under the scheme, businesses can select a Value Recovery option for hardware that still has some resale value, or for older equipment they can choose to have the equipment taken away by Dell for recycling.

Dell has not released any overall pricing for service, claiming that the costs depend on the age and quality of the hardware in question.

"In the business space it has a lot to do with the value of the kit and the age of the kit. If it is fairly new kit there is probably some value that could be returned to the customer. If it is old then it is going to be an expense," said Dell's global sustainable business director Pat Nathan.

Nathan explained the new programme was launched partly in response to the new Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive but also the growing problem of IT waste in general.

"I definitely think the WEEE directive has had a bearing on all our service decisions. While the directive hasn't been converted into legislation yet we pretty much know what the end result is going to be, bar ironing out a few details," she said.

The main aim of WEEE is to make manufacturers and consumers more responsible for the disposal of old equipment.

Analyst group Gartner claims vendor recycling costs will ultimately be passed on to end-user organisations. In a recent research note, EU's New Recycling Rules could Drive-Up European PC Prices, the analyst group estimated that legal changes could add $60 (£33) to the price of PCs in Europe by 2005.

"From 2004, budgets should incorporate the costs of equipment disposal. From 2005, budgets should be allocated for a separate recycling fee. This will most likely be included in the purchase price of new PCs," said Gartner.

Nathan said it was too early to tell to what extent the added cost of recycling would be passed on to customers.

"I think it is really, really challenging to understand what the costs are going to be at this early stage. How do you calculate your take-up rates to work out those costs?" she said

Dell is operating the scheme in partnership with UK company Dataserv, which will handle the bulk of the recycling and disposal. Neil Saunders, Dataserv's managing director said the first objective of any recycling scheme is to re-use the equipment if possible.

"We have got it down so that 97 percent of the product is reused and only 3 percent is ending up in any form of landfill," he said.

But Saunders added that the UK has a very long way to go before meeting its electronic recycling targets.

"I believe generally the percentage of machines being recycled is exceptionally low, generally falling well below the 5 percent. But over the next one to two years I expect to see that increase by a significant margin, but again probably only up to the 10 or 15 percent level," he said.

According to the Environment Agency at least one million tonnes of electrical and electronic waste from domestic and commercial sources is discarded in the UK every year and this figure is expected to grow by 4 to 8 percent annually.

The final draft of the WEEE directive was issued by the DTI in August. The industry has been given till 29 October to respond to the draft before the European directive is finally enacted into the UK statute books later this year. But WEEE will not come into effect until August 2005 and the first targets for collection, recycling and recovery are in 2008.

Dell has also announced an updated consumer recycling service which will allow customers to recycle any used computer when purchasing a new one from Dell.

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