Chris Drage discovers financial intentives for recycling your ICT equipment
WenbleystadiumBetter than the football? One year's PC junk would fill Wembley six timesEvery year the UK creates enough waste from electrical products to fill Wembley Stadium six times. So it's no surprise that there is growing concern about the environmental impact of redundant computers, their add-ons and other ICT products.

In its 2009 schools ICT survey the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) estimated that “over a quarter of a million computers are considered ineffective for teaching the curriculum due to either age or specification”. You'll find them in teachers' and cleaners' cupboards, under benches and in every conceivable storage space in a school – but what"s the solution? Don't worry, help is at hand.

Things started to change back in 2007 when the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (known as the WEEE Directive) became law in the UK. This aimed to minimise the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment by increasing re-use and recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill sites. It seeks to achieve this by making producers responsible for the disposal of waste electrical equipment. To learn more from the Environment Agency click here .

The WEEE directive closes the ICT hardware life cycle loop, by making the supplier responsible for the recycling and disposing of their own equipment. The major ICT supply companies do help schools to recycle their old kit and, not surprisingly, in the process encourage them to purchase new equipment with cash incentives. With the autumn term now well under way, teachers and parents could very well be looking to purchase new computers to help themselves or their children through the school year and take advantage of schemes operated by their chosen equipment suppliers.

Multinationals like Dell are involved in helping schools recycle their old equipment. If schools are looking to recycle or reuse single items then they can sign up to Dell's free consumer recycling programme via Alternatively, if the school can transport the kit to a drop-off point for recycling then they do not have to pay for recycling.

Where a school is looking to recycle a lot of equipment at once, it may want to consider purchasing Dell’s Asset Recovery Service (ARS). This can help schools to resell, recycle, donate or return to lease excess or outdated computer equipment in a secure and environmentally conscious manner that complies with local country regulatory guidelines. All services include collection from site and all transportation.

In addition, Dell offers on-site "data wipe" services for enhanced security so no other parties can get access to potentially sensitive information on old PCs. However, signing up for Dell's Asset Recovery Service is a business decision. If a school has concerns about data on the systems then they may need to pay some of the cost. This will vary by school, volumes, logistics, etc. Details of Dell's ARS programme are on but cost is not outlined as there needs to be a discussion to understand the needs of the school. Any school wishing to sign up for this service can work directly with their Dell account manager or they can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Dell will advise them on next steps.

RM picking up awards for its green credentials

RM has been picking up the plaudits for its green credentials: it’s been picked for The Sunday Times Top 50 Greenest Businesses and named Sustainable Company of the Year in the annual techMARK Awards.

The company operates a chargeable service for the collection and disposal of any EEE you have, and which RM are not obligated to dispose of. For just £19 per item the company will organise the collection and disposal of your equipment. This service can be puchased at your convenience. And RM recently announced the launch of a new PC trade-in scheme called ScrapIT, to help raise money for ICT projects in Africa, as well as helping UK schools upgrade their education technology.

ScrapIT allows RM customers to trade in old PCs for a discount when purchasing the new RM One. For every PC traded-in, RM will be donating £5 to ICT projects in Africa and will be working with third party organisations such as Digital Links, which aims to bring the best technology available to disadvantaged communities at an affordable rate; and IT Schools Africa, a UK-based charity which provides recycled computers to African schools. Here's how the scheme works:

  • Trade in any brand all-in-one PC or old RM Ones to save £125 off the price of a new RM One (30+ to save £150);
  • Trade any brand PC or old RM PCs to save £75 off of a new RM One (30+ to save £100).

Old PCs are collected using a 'milk-run' approach, enabling multiple customer collections using only one vehicle which is the most carbon friendly approach to collection. Machines are then tested and graded and sold back into the market. Additionally, any unsaleable kit is recycled according to the best available recycling and recovering techniques. By using ScrapIT schools can not only benefit from upgrading their kit, but significant funding can also be raised for ICT projects in Africa.

Viglen also operates a ‘no-landfill’ policy when it comes to recycling, and has been offering redeployment and recycling services for several years that are most certainly WEEE compliant. The company hosts a website offering a range of information on energy saving and its initiatives in this area, including a guide to the new EnviroQuiet products, best practice guides, white papers, information on recycling, and charts and a calculator for you to work out how much power you’re using and how much you can save. Viglen has been involved for a while in developing a range of products and services designed to improve the environment. These EnviroQuiet products have much less energy requirements than standard, and much lower noise emissions.

It's a wrap! Suppliers put their sights on packaging

Packaging is everywhere. Every item you purchase is packaged somehow. And while many retailers are trying to do something positive to minimise the use of packaging in consumer goods, some of the major players in the educational ICT industry are doing their bit too.

Last year, Dell became the first company in the PC industry to create packaging from bamboo, a highly renewable material that serves as an alternative to the moulded paper pulp, foams and corrugated cardboard often used in packaging. Bamboo is a strong, renewable and compostable material. Starting with its Inspiron Mini 10 and 10v netbooks, the company has since extended the use of bamboo packaging to include its new five-inch hybrid device, the Streak, and a number of its Inspiron laptops.

Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world. It can grow up to 42cm per day and reaches full harvesting maturity in three to seven years, significantly faster than hardwoods. This makes bamboo a highly renewable material and a great alternative to current packing materials. Dell sees bamboo packaging as just one more way we make it easier for our customers to be green (click here to find out more)

Viglen is also taking a careful look at packaging. Its EnviroQuiet label doesn’t just cover low-power PCs and servers; the company also has new packaging to reduce discarded cardboard and new services covering recycling and safe disposal of ICT equipment.

There are no longer any reasons for schools burying their heads in the sand when it comes to recycling their ICT equipment. Sustainability is in their financial interests as long as it is in the curriculum, and they'll find the most passionate supporters right there in their classrooms – their learners.

Tips for Greener ICT

  • Understand the impact that not recycling your technology has on the environment. Every year, the amount of electrical waste created in the UK is enough to fill Wembley Stadium six times over or create 150 thousand double-decker buses!
  • Take action by making yourself aware of recycling initiatives you could take advantage of. Look for recycling advice in product literature or on websites. Dell, for example, offers the industry’s only free global recycling programme for consumers.
  • Do a good deed: give it away for free online, using sites such as freecycle or Gumtree. Just because you no longer have use for it, someone else may well do: can accept working PCs which are less than five years old (Pentium 4 or above) and other ICT equipment (for specific items please check their FAQ’s).
  • Reach out to local organisations or councils and set up community electronics recycling days or arrange waste collections for your school.
  • Don’t let your packaging go to waste either: bamboo packaging helps reduce environmental impact and ensure a healthier planet. You can toss all that packaging on to a compost heap for easy, environmentally responsible disposal. It’ll make the plants happy too!

More information

The WEEE Directive
RM ScrapIT
Viglen Enviroquiet
Viglen Energy Use Calculator