Less than half of obsolete PCs are recycled

High export tariffs and transportation costs have hindered recycling, according to Gartner.

Green IT

Only 44 per cent of the 197 million PCs retired in 2007 were reused, according to research by analyst firm Gartner

In addition only one in five secondary PCs, those that have been in use by a primary user for three months before being recycled, will find their way to a developing market.

Computer refurbishing organisation Computer Aid has collected around 38,000 base units so far this year. Computer Aid spokeswoman Anja Ffrench explained that after the base units are refurbished and tested, 70 per cent them will be shipped off for reuse in developing countries, while the remaining 30 per cent are recycled to reclaim the base materials.

When asked about the Gartner research, Ffrench said, "I found it quite shocking that so many PCs are not being reused. Before a computer is turned on, 75 per cent of the total energy consumed during the machines lifetime has already been used. It is a massive shame not only for the environment but socially, as we have a waiting list of schools and foundations that could use those computers."

Computer companies can earn an average of $10 to $50 (7 to 33) profit on a three-year-old machine if it is refurbished.

"The demand for secondary PCs in emerging regions, such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and parts of Asia/Pacific is likely to grow as pressure increases on developing countries to accept used PCs as a viable technology solution," said Meike Escherich, principal analyst at Gartner.

Factors noted for stopping companies from donating their computers included environmental and data loss legislation as well as the low cost of new, more popular notebooks.

"The emergence of the new ultralow-cost mini-notebooks could threaten the refurbished market and could see a number of users leave the secondary PC market," Escherich said. "Nevertheless, we expect that most buyers of used PCs will prefer a higher-specification A-branded PC over a basic mini-notebook."

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