Enabling Sustainable Disposal of Unwanted IT Equipment

At the end of any major IT refresh project is a small mountain of old equipment that is no longer required. With a focus on environmental responsibility, organisations are increasingly looking for a more sustainable approach to waste management and the disposal of unwanted IT equipment has a positive role to play.

This is why HighPoint partner with N2S, a specialist in the return journey for unwanted IT assets. Together we are helping our customers to reduce their carbon footprint through prioritised outcomes for old IT assets and environmental impact reporting based on these outcomes.

We recently completed a Proof of Concept for a retail client which is an excellent example of how every piece of IT equipment can be reused, resold or recycled. We wanted to share this story as it shows how HighPoint and N2S can ensure that absolutely nothing finds its way to a landfill site.

The Starting Point

Tucked away in a warehouse was 2.64 metric tonnes of IT Equipment. This consisted  of workplace computer assets, servers, point-of-sale devices, scanners and screens.

The first step was to assess which assets could be refurbished and which had to be disposed of through recycling. Certain equipment such as display screens have to be categorised as WEEE and must be responsibly recycled as they may contain persistent organic pollutants, but often equipment that is thought to be worthless can be economically refurbished and repaired.

Over Three-Quarters Refurbished – Securely

In this proof of concept over 2 metric tonnes of the IT Equipment (77%) was refurbished and readied for resell. N2S are certified by NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) and as such can ensure that all equipment that is data-bearing is able to be data wiped to HMG IL5 guidance ensuring that all sensitive information is sanitised. N2S as a rule prefer to data-wipe rather than destroy data-bearing media, as it is better to re-use than recycle – better for embodied carbon avoidance and for commercial value retention.

The equipment is then remarketed to various channels with the customer gaining the benefits of achieving service credits for resold equipment.

Sustainable Recycling

Only 23% of the unwanted IT Equipment in this case needed to be disposed of with the key objective of avoiding anything going to landfill.  With N2S’s comprehensive in-house recycling capability this was achieved.

Equipment was manually stripped down into its component parts with the relevant process followed for each element. One of the most challenging areas is printed circuit boards (PCBs). Due to increased miniaturisation. these contain valuable metals in small quantities that can be extracted. For example, just one metric tonne of computer circuit boards can contain 0.5kg of gold, 130kg of copper, 10kg of iron, 60kg of lead, 40kg of tin, 36kg of nickel and other rare metals like platinum, palladium and indium.

N2S in partnership with Coventry University part-funded by Innovate UK have developed a process called Bio-leaching to separate out the precious rare earth metals in a PCB, a process which is much cleaner than traditional methods of heap leaching which uses cyanide or heat refining processes.

According to the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) N2S are ahead of the legislation and are the market leaders in recycling due to the ability recover the maximum value through innovative refining recycling processes. They stated that “most members meet the requirements, whereby N2S exceed them”.

Small Project, Massive Impact

Whilst the proof of concept that HighPoint and N2S undertook was relatively low in scale at just 2.64 metric tonnes of IT equipment,  the positive impact this has had on creating awareness for and avoidance of the  retailer’s carbon footprint was significant.


Sustainable and Measurable Outcomes – Key for Our Future

As every Government, organisation and individual becomes increasingly aware of the contribution they can make in protecting our environment, ensuring sustainable recycling across every element of waste is key. Often, we think about IT transformation projects in terms of the new equipment being installed but forget about the equipment that is being replaced and where it might end up

Our partnership with N2S is allowing us to focus on the complete IT lifecycle for our customers, delivering them not only the best possible latest technology, but ensuring that they dispose of redundant equipment responsibly – thereby contributing to a Circular IT Economy and supporting the UN Sustainable Development goals in a tangible and meaningful way