Recession-hit refresh cycles “good for the planet”
The recession has slowed equipment donations to Computer Aid – but the recycling charity claims it’s good news.
Computer Aid collects old computers to refurbish and ship overseas to be reused by people in developing countries.
The charity has seen donations fall off as companies extend their refresh cycles – partially to cut spending during the economic downturn.
We have noticed our donors have not been donating to us as regularly
“A large proportion of them are now extending the life of their computers,” Computer Aid’s head of communications Anja Ffrench told PC Pro. “The usual upgrades were three years, and now that’s gone to four or five years. It’s a big difference there.”
“We have noticed our donors have not been donating to us as regularly,” she said.
Computer Aid surveyed its donors at the end of 2008, finding 39% upgraded before their equipment was three-years-old. A survey this summer found that had fallen to 23%, while the number waiting over five years to upgrade had jumped to 10% to 14%. A third of those polled blamed the economic downturn for the life-cycle extension, citing slashed IT budgets.
“People are being persuaded to extend the life of their equipment, especially in government departments,” Ffrench said. “I’m sure the recession plays into it.”
While the charity is always looking for new donors, it’s not upset about companies donating less frequently, as Computer Aid promotes reuse over recycling. “It is a good thing, because we believe people extending the life of their equipment is good,” said Ffrench.
Recycling versus reuse
Computer Aid argues that machines should be reused before they’re recycled, as most of the environmental damage and energy use happens in the manufacturing stage.
“Pretty much, end of life equipment isn’t actually end of life,” said Haley Bowcock, Computer Aid’s environmental advocacy officer. “Recycling isn’t a perfect option – it’s certainly an option, when computers have reached the end of their life – but there’s so many gains to be had by extending PCs to the end of their life,” she added.
While newer models might be more energy efficient, 80% of a PC’s energy is consumed in manufacturing phase, so holding onto an older model is still the greenest option, she added.
“Recycling tends to be the default option, I think that’s probably a lot to do with the fact that consumers are often not aware of resuse paths or why its environmentally beneficial,” Bowcock said, calling on manufacturers and vendors to do more to make their customers aware of such programmes.