Wednesday, 19 November 2014

It’s Green, Innit

IT recycling is a mystery to most people. Since arriving on planet eReco, I have spent an inordinate amount of time explaining what I do to friends and if I ply them with drink to keep their interest up I usually manage to beat the basics into them.

It’s green, innit.

The whole idea is to stop electronic equipment ending up in landfill, and to minimise the need to produce more equipment by maximising the lifecycle of said equipment. Our lords and masters in Europe issued the WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) regulations in 2006 and our little industry was formed to cater for it.

I think we can all agree the basic premise makes sense. Electrical equipment should be manufactured using material which can be recycled, because all human activity ought to be sustainable. We have finite amounts of resources, so don’t waste them.

Unfortunately, at the business end of this lark, there is some resistance. Not to the green, cuddly bits you must understand, but to the idea that we might have to pay for it all. Now I have tackled this attitude before in this not-so-humble blog but it is the main issue with the whole damned shebang. The EU put the onus on the manufacturer to pay for recycling and of course they added the cost to the purchase when it gets down to the sharp end, the piggies tend to squeal.

Let’s be fair here. If you are the one with the bit of kit to dispose of, you are well aware of what it cost you in the first place, and how long it has lasted. You therefore have a value for money factor built in, like an added feature. But you have to let go. Why should you pay to have it removed? Why should you pay to have the hard drive wiped or destroyed?

It’s an attitude. The first assumption is that the bit of kit you are disposing of has value and that someone like eReco will steal it from you and sell it on, thus funding our lives of unbridled excess. In fact you are deluding yourself.

Shall we compare it to a used car? You have had it since new, and you’ve given it a bit of a going over down the years. It now needs MOT’s and it is not quite as nippy as it was. Otherwise, why would you be replacing it? Technology has moved on, not quite into another generation but almost and you needed to upgrade.

So how much are you expecting your discarded possession to be worth to someone else?

I had this self same conversation with a potential client last week, a knowledgeable guy who knew the regulations and what he wanted. And what he wanted was not to pay for the stuff to be collected and not to pay for it to be made data secure. But he did want all his paperwork quickly and correctly and he was very interested in our processes and the quality of our service.

I pointed out the discrepancies in his argument but he was not particularly sympathetic. So I have to construct a deal based on the assumed value of disposed kit neither of us have seen yet, if I want his business.

The second assumption is that all services like ours are the same. Here my wise prospect admitted the facts of life without any sense of irony. He has an existing supplier who has bent the knee on costs, backing his businesses future on being able to sell on the kit to make a profit. But said service provider is a bit shaky on the processes and the paperwork.

Not all prospects are wise, of course. Not all respect and fear the risks of it all going tits up. Some dear trusting people just take Del-boy’s word for it that everything is done properly. So, what, I hear you ask, should we be looking for in an IT recycler?

The obvious answer in all self interest is look no further, but I should at least try to be objective and offer a sensible answer.

Firstly, some meaningful accreditations. This can be a bit bewildering to the uninitiated and I don’t expect anyone junking one lone PC to get too deep into this, but take a look at the website and see what people say. They should be swimming in logos. Check out to see what I mean. Our accreditations are meaningful, industry (high) standard, and for those of you who don't know ADISA, their process involves spot checks. They have turned up on our doorstep twice in the last 30 months and we have passed the test with flying colours.

Secondly, think about it. If the person you are considering has to drive 50 miles to you to pick up half a van load of assorted rubbish, take it back to base, sort it and wipe the data bearing devices, how are they making any money? If the answer is cutting corners, you are the one bearing the risk!

Yes, some kit has a good resale value. A professional IT recycling service will charge for its services and share the proceeds of successful remarketing afterwards. Because in reality they are two very different services. Both skilled, both valuable.

If you have a regular supply of redundant IT kit, you are either in a very large business or you are in a sector where you need to upgrade very regularly. If that is the case, you have a fair chance of staying ahead of the game, as in covering your recycling costs. Maybe you will even make a few bob. But don't plan two weeks in the Cayman Islands on the proceeds.

But if your stuff is faulty, out of date or just generally unpopular, scrap values are pennies. We have to man up here. You are not going to make money complying with these regulations. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do and because you need to protect yourselves. Our job is to help you do that at minimum cost whilst keeping your data safe and secure.