Targeting e-waste, IBM opens China facility for refurbishing servers

The world's biggest server technology company sees a ready market for remanufactured systems in emerging markets; it is the first to snag a Chinese license for this activity.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

One of the biggest dilemmas of green technology or green IT initiatives: usually in order to get safer from an environmental perspective or greener from an energy-efficiency standpoint, you have to ditch your old computing hardware and invest in new stuff.

Computer manufacturers love this, of course, but this practice has stoked concerns over the mounds of electronic waste that have been showing up in emerging nations such as China and India for processing. Often for processing that is less than safe from a human or environmental standpoint.

The idea of extending the life of technology through refurbishment -- the act of sprucing up systems or components or technologies so that they can be reincarnated for another life -- appeals to many. But initiatives supporting this practice have been really lowkey among the mainstream technology makers. They have all had them, but kind of as an option you'd find out about when you asked. Apparently IBM is stepping up its e-waste initiative, however, with a new server remanufacturing facility in China.

The center, based in Shenzhen, is focused on extending the life of older computing technology. The press release actually originated from the IBM Global Financing team. That's because the IBM financing division will buy back certain IBM Power Systems from its customers in order to send to the new remanufacturing facility.

This new center is important for two related reasons:

  1. China happens to be among one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to e-waste
  2. China is one of the fastest growing emerging markets for server technologies, so it offers a ready customer base for the refurbished equipment

The new facility will start off by remanufacturing "hundreds" of midrange IBM Power Systems. By 2014, however, the site will accommodate 100,000 personal computers, and midrange servers from both IBM and other brands.

In the press release for the facility, IBM General Manager Richard Dicks, who manages the company's Global Asset Recovery Services, said that while demand for technology is growing quickly in many emerging markets, the appetite for NEW technology isn't as strong.

"As the first IT provider licensed by the government to remanufacture servers on mainland China, IBM can help clients affordably acquire IBM Certified Pre-owned Equipment locally to supplement and support their IT operations while helping the environment," Dicks said.

IBM already has refurbishing operations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the United States. It has been involved in some element of computer takeback for close to three decades. The company said it can keep up to 97 percent of the equipment it handles in these facilities out of landfills.

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