Discarded cellphones may be piling up in toxic heaps in developing companies, but IBM has an ongoing program focused on remanufacturing or otherwise recycling end-of-life IT equipment. I commented yesterday on the fate of many of the 150 million cellphones that Americans discard each year, and it doesn't make for a pretty picture. In contract, as Harry Stephens reports in GreenBiz, “IBM’s Global Asset Recovery Services (GARS) can remanufacture just about any kind of IT equipment, regardless whether IBM made it. Since 1999, GARS has remanufactured and demanufactured nearly 68 million pounds of technology equipment.”
In fact, GARS notes that 99.6% of all IT equipment and product waste returned to IBM at the end of the product lifecycle has been reused, remanufactured, or recycled. GARS calls itself a “reverse logistics organization” that helps clients cost-effectively transition to new technology, leverage existing IT equipment, safely dispose of old equipment, and manage the IT lifecycle going forward.
Stevens in GreenBiz notes, “While planned obsolescence may be common practice at the world’s biggest technology corporations, IBM's GARS program is aimed at both reusing old products and designing products that last longer and be better used at their end-of-life.”
As an example of planned obsolescence, he cites a television circuit board with heat-sensitive capacitors located near a heat sink, and he notes that Apple faces a legal dispute in Brazil over claims of planned obsolescence.
With respect to the Apple situation in Brazil, Bryan M. Wolfe at AppAdvice quotes Sergio Palomares, an attorney at the Brazilian Institute of Politics and Law Software, as saying, “Consumers thought [they were] buying high-end equipment not knowing [it] was already an obsolete version.” The dispute centers on differences between successive generations of iPads.
I don't fault Apple for bringing new products to market quickly. But what's needed across the industry are more programs like IBM's.
Stevens in GreenBiz quotes John Muir, who leads the GARS sales team, as saying, “We're continually looking and working with engineers on how to best design products that will enable us to keep upgrading and upgrading and upgrading. We're able to keep the technology as new as we possibly can, keep it as fresh as we possibly can, and to minimize the amount of waste.”