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The Circular Economy in IT: How Can We Embrace it?

03 May 2021


How many laptop or mobile cables have you used throughout your career? Probably far too many to think about.  But have you ever stopped to think what happens to these cables, or any of the other thousands of IT assets produced each year?

In the past the majority of IT assets would have been destined for landfill, but now, thanks to Asset Upcycling initiatives, businesses are clawing back value from legacy investments whilst also meeting sustainability and GDPR goals.

IT Asset Upcycling

Why is IT Asset Upcycling becoming increasingly popular? The answer is a global shift in economic thinking.  There is a move away from our traditional linear economy (take, make, waste) to a more circular economy (reduce, re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose). 


This is fast-becoming an economic imperative across all sectors, not just technology.  Business leaders are waking up to the urgency of seeking more sustainable alternatives.


The equation is simple one: with the global population predicted to approach 9 billion people by 2030, we are using more resources than the planet can provide.*


From the moves to scrap single use plastic, to leasing models being spearheaded by brands such as Ikea, to calls to shun fast-fashion, there are several cross-industry examples of moves to create a more circular, sustainable economy.

Meeting Your IT Sustainability Goals


For those of us working in technology it’s sobering to think e-waste has become one of the world’s fastest-growing waste streams on the planet. According to the University of West of England, 50 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2018.**


In part, moves to more consumption-based IT models will help redress the balance.  Similarly, technologies such as AI will help reduce waste and increase efficiency.


But many organisations can now do more by simply upcycling their legacy assets.

For example, if we return to the earlier example of the laptop cable, it’s now possible for the rubber to be melted off so both the rubber and the metal inside can be re-used.  And this is a completely scalable. So, data centre assets such as servers, storage and networking equipment can all be re-purposed or re-cycled. This can significantly reduce e-waste landfill, whilst ensuring company data is securely wiped from disks, SSDs and memory.


If you have a sustainability agenda, or starting to think about one, our asset upcycling service, can be a very effective way of helping you meet your goals, said, Anthony May, CANCOM’s Director of Support. 


“It’s win-win. You are helping the planet and getting value back from your original investment.  And, many organisations are now using this revenue stream to provide much-needed budget to fund future innovation projects.” 


Unlocking the Value of Legacy IT


Your organisation may well already be using an Asset Recovery Service. But there is a difference between asset recovery and asset upcycling.


With asset recovery, your assets are taken away, but all you get is a certificate of destruction.  There is no value passed back.  Plus, there’s always a risk your data could end up in the wrong hands.


With asset upcycling we take back assets from a customer that are either over-capacity or have reached the end of life. Based on their value, they can be re-marketed, or re-purposed generating a credit to fund other projects.


And because value can be provided back in the form of service credit, rather than cash, it provides value directly back to the IT department.


HPE estimate the average data center has about $157 million worth of hardware. Last year, they put a staggering $330 million back into customers’ pockets through this asset upcycling services. ***


Both big brand names and smaller players are waking up to the potential of IT asset upcycling to fund innovation projects.


Advantages of a Trusted IT Asset Upcycling Advisor

Unlike some asset disposal services, our asset upcycling service ensures your data doesn’t get into the wrong hands.


Ian Anderson, CANCOM’s Head of New Business illustrates the risks: “It’s certainly not an everyday occurrence, but I have seen some very scary examples of customer’s IT assets, which have supposedly been re-cycled, turning up elsewhere without proper data wiping.  For this reason, I would strongly urge anyone to work with a trusted partner who can provide data destruction certification and authentication. Because we are re-marketing a lot of the equipment, it’s in our interests to make sure equipment meets the highest data standards.”


Anthony May underlines the other big advantage of working with a trusted partner.  “Our experts are buying and selling equipment daily. We’re completely up-to-speed on market prices for both new and older technologies.  This means we can help you achieve maximum value for your assets.”

IT Asset Upcycling Success Rates


CANCOM’s partner, HPE report that last year alone they processed 4 MILLION assets, remarketing 89% of them, and recycling the other 11% in a secure, environmentally responsible way.


Based on HPE Recyclability assessments, 98% of HPE product material is recyclable.

It’s worth noting it’s not just HPE’s products that are eligible for upcycling. Any legacy asset from end user computing to servers, storage and networking in your data centre are eligible for upcycling.


Alongside our partner HPE we have been doing IT asset refurbishing and remarketing for over 20 years in our Andover, MA Technology Renewal Center and over 7 years in our center in Erskine, Scotland.


Do you have a room full of old servers, storage devices or laptops gathering dust? Are your Data Centre servers or storage due for a refresh?


If you’d like to find out more the Circular Economy in IT and about our Asset Upycling Service, book an informal chat with one of our experts.


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*source: WordEconomicForum, **HPE research via University of West of England ***HPE Research


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