Charity Computer Aid International has claimed Gartner’s focus on the problem of exporting refurbished PCs to the developing world, which constitute e-waste, is ‘obscuring the real villains’.
Gartner predicted this week that by 2012 there will be an annual total of 30 million refurbished PCs that the emerging world will need to dispose of. But Tony Roberts, chief executive of Computer Aid, claims second-user computers represent less than 0.0037% of worldwide e-waste volumes.
‘Computer Aid supports Gartner in highlighting the very real dangers of e-waste,’ said Roberts. ‘But we would caution that by focusing on refurbished computers – which constitute such a tiny fraction of the overall volumes – Gartner is at risk of obscuring the real problem and the real villains.’
Roberts pointed out that, to date, more than five billion mobile phones, 1.5 billion TVs, the same number of PCs and numerous other appliances, including fridges and kettles, have been used and thrown away. ‘The issue of refurbished PCs polluting the developing world is a red herring,’ he added.
He went on to state that discouraging the exportation of properly refurbished kit to the developing world was the wrong way to raise environmental issues.
‘To address 99.9963% of the problem, it is essential that end-of-life recycling capacity is put into place in all countries,’ he added. ‘We need to turn the spotlight onto international governments to take legislative action and onto OEMs to finance this work.’
Computer Aid claimed the WEEE Directive addresses the problem of e-waste across Europe and similar legislation ensures green reuse or recycling in 18 US states. Canada and Australia have proposed e-waste laws and now the charity wants developing countries to benefit from this type of ruling.
‘OEMs should be legally compelled to fund end-of-life recycling of their products in Africa and other emerging markets in exactly the same way as they are in Europe,’ said Roberts.
He added that reuse was still the preferable option, particularly when machines could be used in African schools or hospitals for another four years.
‘Reusing second-hand PCs which still have several years of productive life in them continues to be the most environmentally responsible corporate decision for legacy IT equipment,’ he said. ‘Given that 75% of the energy used by a PC across its working life is expended during its manufacture, to recycle component parts of a computer which is still in working order is irresponsible.’