Guide to Green Electronics
18 top manufacturers are ranked according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.
The IT industry has taken its share of plaudits for embracing the green agenda over the past few years. This is certainly well-deserved considering the substantial investment in virtual and related technologies that have helped reduce overall energy consumption.
However, many of the measures have rightly been described as "low-hanging fruit" in that they were fairly easy to accomplish and produced relatively quick, quantifiable returns on investment. That may not be the case in the next phase of the green data center movement, however, in which the industry will increasingly be asked to do what's right for the environment even if it does not produce significant benefit, and may in fact be detrimental, to the bottom line.
A key example is recycling. Enterprises have traditionally left disposal of old equipment to suppliers or distributors, essentially washing their hands of it once depreciation had eroded its value. That approach isn't likely to hold up much longer considering the impact that refuse enterprise hardware is having on both the environment and municipal budgets that have to accommodate the e-waste.
According to IDC, the United States alone already recycles some 2.4 billion pounds of computer equipment and mobile devices annually, although expanding cooperation throughout the enterprise industry has been a challenge. The latest acronym coming your way, it seems, is ITAD (IT asset disposal), which incorporates everything from hardware lifecycle management and recycling practices/procedures to security concerns and standards compliance. The group is sponsoring a one-day seminar on ITAD at its Framingham, Mass., campus on June 23.
There are a number of significant obstacles to improved e-recycling, according to CSC's David Moschella. Unlike energy consumption, disposal issues do not directly impact the hot-button issues surrounding fossil fuel consumption, namely global warming and reliance on unstable sources of oil. There's also the fact that the true impact of casual disposal is felt largely in the Third world. Unfortunately, as the developed world moves away from PCs and more toward mobile (read: disposable) devices, the problem will only get worse without a concerted effort to change attitudes both on the street and in the boardroom.
On the plus side, however, there is growing recognition that recycling is not necessarily a "you-win-I-lose" proposition. Distributor Arrow Electronics has jumped into the ITAD market with both feet acquiring specialists like Intechra and Converge over the past year and launching programs for reselling and/or recycling full systems or individual components, with part of the proceeds going back to the enterprise customer. Company officials peg the global ITAD market at $22 billion.
Nonetheless, the industry as a whole has an obligation to clean up after itself. By supporting a regulated, sustainable hardware lifecycle program, enterprises can show that they recognize their responsibilities when it comes to mitigating the negative aspects of modern data environments.