Reusing a computer is 20 times better than recycling – UN study

11 Jun 2010

Charity Camara says 250,000 computers are recycled, thus destroyed, in Ireland each year, whereas they could be reused.

According to a UN study, reusing a computer is 20 times better for the environment than recycling.

And with circa 250,000 computers recycled every year in Ireland, the majority of these computers could be refurbished rather than being simply destroyed, according to Irish charity Camara.

Camara is a social enterprise that was set up by Cormac Lynch as a volunteer organisation dedicated to using technology to deliver education more effectively to disadvantaged communities in Africa and Ireland. The name Camara is derived from a west African word that means “one who teaches with experience”.

The two areas in which Camara operates are education delivery and computer reuse, with the two streams being linked by technology.

Camara, through its current reuse programme is extending the average life of computers by five years.

  • Via its programme, the computers that are shipped to Africa are set up in ‘Learning Centres’ in schools and colleges.
  • So far this year, Camara has sent 2,500 computers to schools in Africa.

Only the tip of the PC recycling iceberg in Ireland

But that’s still only 1pc of the total computers discarded every year in Ireland, according to Camara’s CEO, Cormac Lynch.

“We spend a lot of time trying to educate people that there’s an alternative to just recycling.”

Lynch says 81pc of equipment received by Camara can be reused in schools before eventual recycling. “

It helps meet the demand for access to computers without having to manufacture new ones and spares the environment 650kg of Co2 emissions per machine. It saves 220 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals, 1.5 tonnes of water and 6,400 megajoules of electricity per computer.”

Donating PCs to Camara

  • Each PC donated to Camara must be at least a Pentium III with 256MB of RAM and have an 8GB hard drive and a CD/DVD drive.
  • Monitors must be between 15 and 17inch.
  • Camara also accepts power leads, cables and mice.

World Environment Day

In tandem with World Environment Day, which took place on 5 June, the Minister for the Environment John Gormley TD visited Camara’s headquarters to learn about the charity’s work in Africa and Ireland, which focuses on education through the reuse of secondhand computers.

On the day, Minister Gormley also announced Ireland’s commitment to finalise a protocol on the reuse of electronics prior to recycling.

Click here for information on World Environment Day.

For information on computer recycling, secure data destruction and WEEE compliance or e-waste policies, contact Mark Fox at

Photo: Pictured on 4 June 2010 were Minister for the environment John Gormley, with Mark Fox and Eoghan Crosby of Camara loading a refurbished computer from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government into a container bound for Africa

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic