With global e-waste growing at about 40 million tons a year, an Irish company that refurbishes old computers and sends them to schools in Ireland and Africa has called on businesses to take a greener, more socially responsible route.
A UN report published this week showed that global e-waste is growing by about 40 million tons a year, highlighting the need for action in the face of an increasing threat to the environment and to public health.
The report, issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), indicated that much of the immediate problem is being faced by developing countries, which are being used as toxic dumping grounds.
Hazardous e-waste, which includes old and defunct laptops and printers, is often composed of highly dangerous substances, and is frequently shipped from the US and Europe and abandoned in developing countries, falsely declared as donations.
Camara, an Irish educational charity, has recognised that the need for accountable e-waste recycling is more important than ever.
By collecting redundant computers from Irish and UK businesses, refurbishing them and reusing them in African and Irish schools, the organisation provides a green solution for corporates wishing to reuse their computer equipment in a socially responsible way, while contributing to a valuable community project.
“We spend a lot of time trying to educate people that there’s an alternative to just recycling,” Camara’s CEO Cormac Lynch explained. “Eighty-one per cent of equipment received by Camara can be reused in schools before eventual recycling.
“Camara ensures that the maximum return on the original energy and resource investment has been eked out of each computer and in the knowledge that they will be responsibly disposed of,” Lynch added.
Two per cent of global carbon emissions can be attributed to IT, and a comprehensive UN study reveals that, reusing a computer, "is some 20 times more effective at saving life-cycle energy use than recycling".
Realising the potential of second-hand electronic equipment as an invaluable educational tool, Camara is extending the life of its computers by five years, deferring carbon emissions of 650kg for each computer until it has been used to its full capacity.
The computers that are shipped to Africa are set up in ‘Learning Centres’ in schools and colleges.
When the computers finally do reach the end of their useful life in Africa, after five years, they are shipped to facilities in South Africa, where they are recycled responsibly and ethically, according to the European Union’s WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic equipment) Directive. Camara is also currently developing an additional recycling hub in Africa.
By John Kennedy
Photo: Camara’s website