Why isn't more effort going into tech refurbishment?

You've gotta love the analogies people come up with to describe the magnitude of their efforts to help the environment. (By the way, guilty as charged.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

You've gotta love the analogies people come up with to describe the magnitude of their efforts to help the environment. (By the way, guilty as charged.) The latest statistic I present for consideration is Hewlett-Packard's declaration that it recycled almost 250 million pounds of hardware and print cartridges in 2007 -- 50 percent more than in 2006 and double the weight of the fated Titanic oceanliner.

Yessir, that's big. Sadly, though, the Americas region only accounted for about 65 million pounds, compared with the 170 million pounds collected in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Hmmm. Makes you think.

Since it adopted its recycling efforts, HP actually has collected and processed more than 1 billion pounds of its technology. Its goal is to recover 2 billion pounds by the end of the decade. Um, wow.

But the figure that fascinates me more is this one: In 2007, HP reused 65 million pounds of hardware in systems being refurbished for either resale or donation. That amount was up by 30 percent over the previous year.

What I'm about to say might be considered blasphemy, but why isn't more effort going into refurbishment?

I'm not just picking on HP, I'm talking about the entire industry. Yes, I know some of you out there will think I am some sort of anti-capitalist for suggesting such a thing. Technology companies EXIST to make new products, of course. I agree, and certainly I would encourage anyone with a TRULY outdated PC, one that can't benefit from all the great power management software that's come out on the market, to get rid of it in favor of newer, more energy-efficient technology. By the way, a couple of other people are thinking like I am. For starters, here's a recent article from Treehugger on refurbishing.

Anyway, though, here's the thing: how many IT departments or individuals buy a new computer simply because the old one is three years old and can't be depreciated anymore on the tax books.? Aha, I thought that was the case! While everyone in Washington debates the new budget and its environmental impact, why doesn't someone take a look at overhauling the way depreciation is handled for certain technology equipment and come up with a better way to structure it? Maybe just extending the window and in turn extend product lifecycles. We all know that money motivates people, which is probably one of the reasons we've all adopted the magical three-year PC lifecycle.

In my former life, I wrote about a few of the refurbishing companies, including Tech Turn and Redemtech. I am sure there are way more now. At least I hope so. Note to self: Check out the biggest companies in the refurbishing business.

For years, refurbishing has been kind of an underground economy. It got noticed a lot more after the dot-com implosion, when companies were snapping up abandoned equipment. But now, I think this could be big business: one that would have a profound impact on the environment. Refurbishers of the world, talk to me.

Editorial standards