One of my neighbors actually set a television out curbside as garbage a few weeks back, which reminded me that in spite all of the media coverage about green tech over the past year (guilty as charged), there's still a big problem with how to handle electronic gadgets at the end of their first life.
One of the bigger companies in the refurbishment and recycling business, TechTurn, is hoping to help change this by continuing to extend its capacity this year. The company operates out of Austin, Texas, and Richmond, Va., right now but will add facilities in the midwest and the west by the year's end, according to TechTurn President Jake Player. Astonishingly enough, there really is no nationwide organization for handling this sort of thing. At least that I know of. Hello? Anyone?
So, anyway, I have actually spoke with TechTurn a couple of times in the past just to get a better handle on how the concept of using refurbished or retooled equipment is faring. Player actually shared a really interesting statistic, one that surprised me: And that is, 80 percent of the systems that his company takes in are actually resold or redeployed by all manner of people. For example, a company may need a specific configuration for a specific software application because even though the hardware is "older," it's easier to apply patches. The stuff that TechTurn resells may be as young as 90 days or as old as eight years. The useful life of a desktop falls off dramatically at five or six years old, he says. TechTurn is one of Microsoft's Authorized Refurbishers, which means it can special special editions of its operating system specifically meant for refurbished equipment.
Here's a link to their online store in case you want to do a little shopping!
This is a relatively dated article from the United Nations about the impact of information technology on the world manufacturing picture and on the whole trash industry. I'm sure many of the figures are now outdated, but it gives you a sense of why you might want to consider reassigning or refurbishing an existing piece of technology vs. dumping it.
"Refurbishing a computer is five times better for the environment than recycling," he says.
You know, I often wonder if the use of leasing for information technology will pick up as the need for better "end of life" management comes into play. I suppose that's a matter for another column. Anyone have any thoughts on that? It balances both the hunger for the new, when appropriate, with proper respect for what's on its way out.
As I've written before, the main thing to do is convince people that buying previously owned equipment is perfectly OK. Thanks for my PowerBook G4, Mom! That MacBook Air will just have to wait.