Global Asset Recovery Solutions

Earth Day 2017: Taking stock of discarded electronic equipment and efforts to reuse

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If you took all the laptops that IBM processed for reuse in a single year and stacked one of top of the other, they would tower over 7 miles above the ground, exceeding the summit of Mount Everest.

Like scaling the world’s tallest peak, keeping IT waste in check on a global scale can seem overwhelming. Workers are embracing personal devices – laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. – on a greater scale, and as these devices are replaced by newer and better versions, they continue to make up a growing portion of the world’s IT waste. According to a report by Markets and Markets, the worldwide BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and enterprise mobility market is expected to grow from $35.1 billion in 2016 to $73.3 billion in 2021.

As Earth Day gets closer, we thought this would be a great opportunity to define the scope of the IT disposal  issue and the role IBM plays in managing used IT equipment to protect our collective home.

Tons of electronics discarded, but recycling rates are rising

Americans generated over 3.3 million tons of discarded electronics equipment  in 2014, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of which was comprised of computers, monitors, mobile phones, televisions, tablets, and e-readers. While the U.S. total remained unchanged from the previous year, the change in the amount of collected electronic equipment and materials  in this time varies widely from state to state: Texas and Indiana both reported 84 percent more such waste in 2014 compared to 2013, and double-digit decreases were reported by California, Missouri, and Virginia.

Of the states that reported their electronic waste totals to the EPA, three states reported that significant percentages of these devices were claimed for recycling by certified companies: California, Connecticut, and Washington each indicated that over 70 percent of their electronic waste was claimed for recycling.

While the majority of U.S. IT waste ends up in the trash, we as a nation are getting better at recycling these materials. According to EPA figures presented by the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, only 10 percent of electronic waste was recycled in 2000; over 40 percent was recycled in .

Across the ocean, the rate of growth in the disposal of electronic equipment has risen nearly 63 percent from 2010 to 2015 in East Asia and Southeast Asia, according to a United Nations University (UNU) report. While Japan (13 percent) and Hong Kong (19 percent) posted modest increases during this period, China disposed of nearly 7.4 million tons in 2015 (doubling its 2010 total) and Vietnam had 497,000 tons that year (up 91 percent from 2010), the report stated.

In other words, according to UNU, the region’s 13.2 million tons of discarded electronics in 2015 equals 2.4 times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The UNU report notes that the growing volumes of disposed electronics in these countries is concerning for the environment, especially in countries that lack the infrastructure to properly handle this material. Reasons for improper handling of this equipment include a lack of awareness, incentive, convenience, and suitable disposal sites, as well as weak governance and enforcement.

IBM is stepping in to repurpose aging equipment

Through our Global Asset Recovery Services (GARS),  IBM prepared nearly 1,036,000 pieces of IT equipment for reuse and resale in 2016. And nearly all of IT equipment and waste returned to IBM at the end of the product lifecycle was reused, remanufactured, or recycled.

GARS can help your organization with asset buyback to decrease your total cost of device ownership, asset disposal in accordance with government regulations, data destruction to protect your customers and employees; and reverse logistics to pack and transport used equipment to our facilities.

And we are proud to share that the GARS team was announced as winners of the Mobile Asset Lifecycle and Recycling/Disposal/EOL services awards by the Authority on Telecom Management Practices during the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

As your business prepares to address its obsolete IT equipment issues, remember that we can collectively manage these assets and keep our planet healthy.

Evaristus Mainsah
General Manager, Global Asset Recovery Services (GARS)

IBM Global Financing


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