Arjen Workum, a network consultant at Aliter Networks, a Netherlands company specialising in reusing IT hardware, believes this could be a key moment for sustainable production. He says the fact that many manufacturers haven’t been able to produce and supply new equipment, has made them start “to look in other directions to keep their infrastructure running,” and that they are now “opening up for our circular business model.”
Aliter Networks recently became the first B-Corp certified IT company to promote a circular economy - a certification only received by companies across the world that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance in business. Since 2009, Aliter has reused over 150,000 IT network products such as switches and routers, saving at least 310,000 kilos of e-waste.
“We mostly get used networking equipment, which is essentially from where all the data is transmitted. We check any cosmetic damage, repaint it, attach accessories and remarket it around the world,” Zimin Chen, Sales Director and Partner at Aliter, told DW. Unlike repaired products, he says refurbished networking devices could have a life of between 10 to 15 years. The company is aiming to reuse half a million IT products by 2025. But if the appetite for refurbished parts continues once supply chain issues are resolved, it might hit the target even sooner.
Miquel Ballester, Circular Innovation Lead at Fairphone says increased interest in reusing and refurbishing resources is a “perfect example of what happens in a crisis situation when things cannot be taken for granted anymore.” “People start to look into other strategies to achieve the same goals or they change their goals.”
Another company that’s seen its business increase is Argo360 — a service organisation also based in the Netherlands that refurbishes and markets end of life (EOL) IT equipment such as laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and monitors. Many of their customers are hardware manufacturers struggling to source new parts. Sandor Bergsma, partner at Argo360 attributes the recent uptick in interest to supply chain issues, and says this is chance for people to realize that “refurbished products work fine.” But in a world that generates about 50 million tons of electric and electronic waste annually — roughly equivalent to discarding 1,000 laptops every single second, opting for refurbished goods is still relatively uncommon. Even though the European Union adopted a new Circular Economy Action Plan in March that aims to ensure resources used are kept in the EU economy for as long as possible, there is still the issue of changing mindsets.
IT companies in Europe are legally bound to delete old personal data from organisation’s systems under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR), but many people remain concerned that older devices can become the source of potential data breaches and leakages.
“So, if you have a company, you are obliged by the law in Europe to remove all data from every employee or person from a workstation or laptop and household at a certain time,” Bergsma said. For the most part, enabling safe circularity in the IT industry - regardless of the coronavirus crisis - is a challenge that remains new in technological, legal and social spheres.
— This article has been provided by Deutsche Welle