IBM's Global Financing division has launched a new program to help business partners and customers get rid of unwanted PC hardware. It is the latest in a spate of schemes addressing IT equipment disposal.
Big Blue already offers asset recovery to all of its leasing customers. The company's Global Finance general manager for Australia, Andrew Rutter, said its new Global Asset Recovery Solutions (GARS) program will allow customers to make a nominal return on assets they no longer want or use.
"There are a lot of compliance issues, plus the environmental impact of e-waste to consider," he said. "IBM has environment policies on these - either in the form of leasing or the buybacks that we do. We want to reuse as much equipment as possible."
To help boost uptake of the service, IBM is offering business partners a referral fee for identifying customers that require existing PC hardware assets to be removed. Business partners will be required to lodge potential GARS clients with IBM at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Business partners in the US that lodge asset recovery opportunities with IBM will receive a three per cent service fee. Although a figure has not yet been confirmed for Australian partners, Rutter said it would be similar.
"When you are dealing with the sheer volume of assets in place, the logistics get difficult," he said. "We will act as the principal in the return logistics."
Alongside its partner rewards, IBM will also give customers cash for eligible assets based on the current market value. This will be allotted as either a fixed price takeout fee, or as a share of the proceeds of selling the assets. Products viable for the new buyback scheme include any Intel-based notebooks and desktops, Intel servers, laser printers, 19-inch or greater CRT monitors, and flat panel screens.
Customers will be required to have at least 25 notebooks or 50 desktops awaiting removal to qualify for the program.
Rutter said IBM Australia now recycles between 100,000 and 200,000 pieces of hardware each year. The new program could potentially see this figure double, he said.
The issue of how to deal with e-waste has become the subject of various new initiatives by vendors and industry bodies alike.
At the forefront of the push to find a long-term solution for IT recycling is the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).
Its general manager of strategy and policy services, James McAdam, said the group was in the process of developing a formal proposal to manage computer take-back schemes nationally.
McAdam said the premise of its proposal would be a product stewardship program, which saw everybody involved with producing and using the equipment bear some responsibility for its retirement. This method is in contrast to current regulations in the European Union, where the manufacturer is culpable for the product right through to its end of life.
McAdam said the proliferation of whitebox and unbranded products in Australia made it necessary to have a whole of industry scheme.
"There needs to be state legislation to ensure that it's a level playing field for everyone in the IT industry."
As an early test of its recycling programs, McAdam said the AIIA conducted a pilot PC take-back scheme with three Western Sydney councils in 2002. During that phase, the group collected 6000 pieces of equipment - representing more than 600 brands.
He said up to 5.3 million used IT products in Australia were now waiting recycling.
"This indicates the levels of problems the industry faces when dealing with historic equipment," McAdam said.
The AIIA proposal would see a new industry body established - the Producer Responsibility Organisation - to oversee the recycling of e-waste. This group would have the ability to recognise and license those programs developed across the industry based on any future legislations determined by the state governments, he said.
The proposal is expected to be formalised next year.
More opportunity for used product
While there has been a strong push to find new ways of dealing with e-waste, several industry players are touting secondhand goods as a great sales opportunity for the channel.
IBM's Global Finance general manager, Andrew Rutter, said there was a definite market for high-quality used equipment, particularly across the SMB sector.
There were also opportunities to sell used products, such as notebooks, into the education market, he said.
HP distribution partner, Avnet, has also announced it would now stock refurbished equipment as part of it's Renew program.
The Renew business was expected to be worth $300,000 a year, Avnet managing director, Colin McKenna, said.
The Computer Market has built its business on selling pre-loved hardware, sourcing goods from various equipment financiers and government agencies.
Co-owner of the franchise business, John Ferrett, said there was a strong retail business in secondhand goods.