Reuse: the sustainable choice for IT asset disposal

Natasha Early, our Partnerships & Fundraising Manager, explains how organisations can reduce their electronic waste this International E-Waste Day by donating unused devices for reuse.

What is E-Waste?

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is the term used to describe discarded electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, computers, printers, scanners and video equipment.

E-waste is a global problem – but you might be surprised to learn that the UK is the second largest emitter of electronic waste per capita in the world. We discard 1.5 million tonnes of tech every year, and only 52.2% is recycled. It makes you wonder what’s happening to the other 48%!

International E-waste Day is an annual awareness raising celebration initiated by the WEEE Forum and its members. Happening every October, the campaign aims to highlight the growing issue of electronic waste and promote responsible e-waste management and disposal from both individuals and businesses.

Keeping tech out of landfill: give devices a second life by donating IT equipment

There are many strategies to promote responsible corporate e-waste management but a simple way to think about it is to consider the three R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Many organisations are switched onto Reduce, managing their IT estate and using tech for as long as possible. A growing number are actively taking steps to Recycle, by working with IT asset disposal organisations to responsibly dispose of their redundant tech. 

But not many organisations are fully considering Reuse; they aren’t giving their devices a second life elsewhere. This is where the National Device Bank comes in. 

Disposing of e-waste responsibly is an issue that Good Things Foundation has been growing in awareness and understanding of ever since we refreshed our strategy in 2022. We set an ambition for our National Device Bank to secure donations of laptops, tablets and mobiles from organisations. Rather than be recycled or sent to landfill, devices can be refurbished and reused by those that are digitally excluded. 

The National Device Bank is a method of IT asset disposal that tackles e-waste whilst supporting people who don’t have access to their own devices. The National Device Bank accepts used IT equipment and devices from organisations of any sector. 

So far, we’ve received devices from a range of organisations such as Deloitte, Ocado and Microsoft, as well as local authorities such as the London Borough of Redbridge. This demonstrates that both private and public sector organisations can contribute. 

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee even recently recommended that “the Government should lead by example by encouraging public sector organisations to securely wipe, refurbish and donate old devices to digital inclusion device distribution schemes. It should encourage businesses to do likewise.” 

Where do device donations go?

Once an organisation donates their devices, we then pair them with data from our National Databank and give them out to community organisations in the National Digital Inclusion Network. These organisations work directly with people in need and so are able to give the refurbished devices to digitally excluded people in their local communities. enabling them to access the many benefits of the online world. 

I would like to get a job and make myself financially secure for myself and my family. I can use this  laptop to assist me with my job search and making online applications. All of this will help me secure my future.” – Jahvid, device recipient

Reusing IT equipment does good things for the environment

So, in addition to the social impact device donations can make, why else do we propose Reuse before Recycle? Recycling is focused on destruction, which means a new replacement will have to be produced. When you consider that 75-85% of the overall carbon footprint of a laptop is in its production, you realise that using a device to its full potential is vital. And if it’s no longer of use to you, then it certainly could be for someone in need.

In just one year, corporate device donations to the National Device Bank, including donations of laptops, mobile phones and tablets, has prevented;

  • Almost 3m kg CO2e emissions that would have been generated had we chosen to purchase brand new devices. That’s like taking around 660 cars off the road for a year – just by choosing to make tech available for reuse. 
  • Responsible asset disposal through us has also prevented around 30,000 kg of e-waste going to landfill – sticking to the car analogy that’s equivalent to around 20 average cars or 2.5 London buses – imagine those buried in your back garden! 

This is why it’s vital to get that other 48% of e-waste managed through a process like the National Device Bank – and why organisations, even those that do already dispose responsibly, should consider Reuse before Recycling. 

Integrating the E and S in ESG 

Many organisations are looking to enhance their reputation and provide long term value for stakeholders by developing or strengthening their corporate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy. Responsible and sustainable IT asset disposal should form part of any Environmental strategy, particularly as organisations begin to set out their Net Zero commitments.  

By reusing tech for digital inclusion, organisations can ensure that their environmental strategy also delivers social impact – creating efficiency and deeper, more lasting benefits for the planet and people. 

It feels right to close with words from our research report, Circular electronics for social good: Reusing IT equipment to bridge the digital divide.

“By incorporating the donation of IT equipment for social good into their ESG reporting and annual reports, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility while enhancing their reputation and building stronger ties with their communities.”  

So what are you waiting for? Don’t dispose, donate to the National Device Bankthe secure, socially responsible and sustainable solution for corporate electronic waste.

Find out more and enquire today about donating to the National Device Bank.


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