“In 2011, we recycled 120,000 computers and monitors. The environmental benefits included reducing climate impact,” says Jonas Karlsson, President of Inrego.
“Reuse of a single desktop computer saves more than 100 kg of carbon dioxide. In 2011, we and our clients reduced emissions by more than 5,400 tons,” he continues.
Reusing is better than recycling.
Inrego’s was founded in 1995 as a second hand store for used computers in Lund. The business model was to sell used computers to students at a sensible price.
Today, Inrego is a major player in the industry, and the basic concept is still to buy large quantities of various types of IT equipment and resell them. The equipment is tested and reconditioned and all the information on the hard drives is erased correctly. Equipment life is thus extended and the environmental benefits are significant.
“A computer that is considered obsolete by a company or agency may have a lot to offer for a new user,” says Karlsson. “To just scrap a fully usable computer after three years is behavior that should change. Sure, there will always be new software and features, but small businesses, schools and other educational organizations may still be able to use the computer for a few years. A normal computer user actually uses only 5 percent of the computer’s capacity over 99 percent of the time. About 90 percent of the equipment we receive can be resold. The rest goes to electronics recycling. ”
Submitting a computer for reconditioning can obviously be dangerous when it comes to sensitive information stored on hard drives and memory sticks. Information-bearing devices such as computers, servers, mobile phones, networking equipment, disks and the like are therefore stored in lockable steel cabinets and retrieved and managed by security-trained staff.
In the room where the deletion occurs, security is high and access is permitted only to authorized persons. All equipment that comes into Inrego gets a special number that follows it through the various reconditioning stages. This number allows the equipment to be tracked through to final delivery.
Software deletion means that information on all types of magnetic, and some flash-based storage media is overwritten. It is the same kind of deletion software used by the US and Swedish armed forces.
Cell phones and smartphones also contain large amounts of information that must be erased. Inrego therefore applies the same type of security to these devices. If deletion is not possible the units are destroyed mechanically and transported to a recycling facility for shredding.
“In order to work systematically and show that we are dealing with security and environmental issues in a proactive way, we are certified to ISO 27001 (Information Security), ISO 14001 (environment), OHSAS 18001 (health and safety) and ISO 9001 (quality),” says Karlsson.
can be a social problem
The manufacturing of a computer is both energy-and material consuming. The recycling of electronic waste may also be associated with environmental and social problems.
To manufacture a desktop computer, it takes about a quarter of a ton of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1,500 liters of water. Copper from Chile, gold from South Africa, nickel from Russia and oil from the Middle East are just some examples of the materials that are extracted and transported across the globe in the process to manufacture a computer.
Inrego basic idea is to “reuse rather than recycle.” Each customer receives a summary of how much greenhouse gas emissions were avoided by reusing. A desktop computer amounts to more than 100 kg of carbon dioxide per year, a laptop is about 70 kg and an LCD screen is about 40 kg.
A survey of agencies and listed companies, which Inrego conducted in 2011, showed that about half of the organizations surveyed scrapped IT equipment every three or four years.
Altogether, approximately 500 000 computers and monitors are recycled each year. If half of these had instead been reused could carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 30,000 tons per year. And their value on the second hand market would have amounted to about SEK 140 million.
Inrego has proposed Swan labeling for computers that are reused and in 2012 the company proposed new criteria for eco-labeling.
The article was published in August 2012