by Martyn Williams

I.T. Recycling – PCs Are a Terrible Thing to Waste

May 01, 20042 mins
Green IT

Who can resist a new PC? With falling prices, replacing your PC is more attractive than upgrading. What’s the harm?

A recent United Nations University (UNU) study into the environmental effects of PCs, however, found that around 1.8 tons of raw materials are required to make the average desktop PC and 17-inch CRT monitor, roughly equal in terms of weight to the total amount of materials used to produce a midsize car. “It’s a big problem,” says Eric Williams, a researcher at UNU Tokyo and one of the study’s coauthors. The UNU report issued in March recommends upgrading a PC’s memory or storage space before replacing it, and if the machine has to go, donating the old computer.

There are some encouraging signs. PC maker Dell has seen a big increase in the number of machines it receives from customers for refurbishing, says Tod Arbogast, senior manager of Dell’s Asset Recovery Services.

According to Arbogast, Dell has handled millions of machines since 1992 when it started offering its asset recovery service, which costs around $25 per machine and includes collection, transportation, reporting and, for PCs, destruction of data on the hard drive. Around two-fifths of Dell’s commercial customers participate.

Whatever you choose, though, Williams says that you should act quickly. “The longer it sits in your closet or desk, the less value it will be to you and whoever will be getting it.”