UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

How can universities ensure that they dispose of their unwanted IT equipment in a green and socially responsible way?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 26 Dec 2011

Christmas is a time for sharing and thinking of others. In this guest blog post I’m pleased to provide a forum for Anja ffrench, Director of Marketing and Communications at Computer Aid International. I met Anja at the recent Computer Weekly Social Media Awards and we discussed ways in which the importance of universities could ensure that their unwanted IT equipment could be disposed in a green and socially responsible way. Whilst I’m sure most universities will have appropriate policies and procedures in place, I would like to use this opportunity to raise the visibility of the Computer Aid International.

The Environmental Cost of using Computers

At every step of the PCs product life-cycle carbon footprints are left behind, during the initial extraction of minerals from the environment; the processing of raw materials; production of sub-components; PC assembly and manufacture; global distribution; and power consumption in usage.

The production of every PC requires 10 times its own weight in fossil fuels. According to empirical research published by Williams and Kerr from the UN University in Tokyo, the average PC requires 240kg of fossil fuels, 22kg of chemicals and 1,500kg of water. That’s over 1.7 metric tonnes of materials consumed to produce each and every PC. PCs require so much energy and materials because of the complex internal structure of microchips.

Why it is better to reuse rather than recycle

Given the substantial environmental cost of production it important we recover the full productive value of every PC through reuse before eventually recycling it to recover parts and materials at its true end-of-life. A refurbished computer can provide at least another three years productive life.

How does the WEEE directive affect UK Universities?

Since July 2007 the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive has been in force. The WEEE directive is an EU initiative which aims to minimise the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment, by increasing reuse and recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill.

The WEEE directive affects every organisation and business that uses electrical equipment in the workplace. The regulations cover all types of electrical and electronic equipment including the obvious computers, printers, fax machines and photocopiers, as well as fridges, kettles and electronic pencil sharpeners. The regulations state that business users are responsible, along with producers, for ensuring their WEEE is correctly treated and reprocessed. The regulations encourage the reuse of whole appliances over recycling. When you are disposing of your IT equipment you must ensure that it is sent to an organisation that has been approved by the Environment Agency to take in WEEE who will provide you with Waste Transfer Notes for your equipment.

Do I need to worry about data security?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 it is your responsibility to destroy any data that may be stored on the machines. Just hitting the delete button is not enough to wipe the data. To ensure you are protected make sure any organisation you use to dispose of your IT equipment uses a professional data wiping solution that has been approved by CESG or similar.

An environmentally friendly and socially responsible solution to your unwanted IT equipment

Donating your unwanted IT equipment to a charity such as Computer Aid International is both environmentally friendly and socially responsible. You will be fully complying with the WEEE directive and benefiting from a professional low cost PC decommissioning service, which includes free UK Secret Services approved Ontrack Eraser data wiping.

Computer Aid is the world’s largest provider of professionally refurbished PCs to the not-for-profit sector in the developing world. It has been in the business of IT refurbishing for over 14 years. The charities aim is to reduce poverty through practical ICT solutions.

To date Computer Aid has provided just under 200,000 fully refurbished PCs and laptops – donated by UK universities and businesses – to where they are most needed in schools, hospitals and not-for-profit organisations in over 100 countries, predominantly in Africa and Latin America. In order for Computer Aid to continue with its work it relies on universities and companies donating their unwanted computers to them.

Schools and universities in the developing world using a PC professionally refurbished by Computer Aid will enjoy at least 3 years more productive PC use. This effectively doubles the life of a PC halving its environmental footprint whilst enabling some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the world to have access to computers.

Anja ffrench

Director of Marketing and Communications
Computer Aid International
10 Brunswick Industrial Park
Brunswick Way, London, N11 1JL
Registered Charity no. 1069256

Tel: +44 (0) 208 361 5540
Fax: +44 (0) 208 361 7051

Twitter: and


Computer Aid International is the world’s largest and most experienced not-for-profit provider of professionally refurbished PCs to developing countries. We have provided over 185,000 computers to educational institutions and not-for-profit organisations in over 100 different countries since 1998. Our aim is to reduce poverty through practical ICT solutions.


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