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Manage the assets' end-of-life in a "Green" Way

The summer is at peak in India and the temperature has surpassed its' previous high already. This has motivated me further to continue writing blogs on Green IT. I would like to continue from my comment in previous blog where I said that "maximizing utilization of existing assets is better than purchasing new environment friendly assets". There are two ways to look at it:

·         GHG emission during production of new systems (which accounts of about 75% - 80% of emission during entire life of asset).

·         Creation of e-waste by discarding existing assets to procure new energy efficient assets.


Approximately 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are generated worldwide every year with an increase rate of about 10%. This is further added by increasing number of organizations implementing desktop virtualization, server consolidation, and storage consolidation solutions. With a lot of servers and storage devices being consolidated into fewer ones using virtualization technology, a large number of assets would become redundant and organizations need to identify an efficient mechanism to handle those assets.


Let us see what happens to most of the IT assets in their end-of-life stage.

·         Approx. 68% of products are stockpiled after their useful life is over.

·         Approx. 12% of products are recycled every year.

·         Rest of the e-waste is trashed in landfills or incinerators.


Now if you are thinking why you should bother about e-waste, the points below will tell you why:

·         E-waste is the highest growing waste stream as compared to other categories of municipal waste. The e-waste dumped in landfills can leak into the ground and also water systems.

·         In addition to hazardous substances like lead, mercury and cadmium etc, the e-waste also contains precious metals. For example, the concentration of gold in a desktop computer is higher than found in a naturally occurring mineral ore.

·         Majority of e-waste is done by the informal sector these days. Some of the methods employed for recycling in this sector involve direct burning, acid baths, mercury amalgamation etc. These result in release of toxic substances affecting the workers in addition to environment.


If above points are not enough to motivate you, many state and country governments are coming up with legislations regarding proper handling of electronic waste. J


Fortunately, there are ways for dealing with electronic waste. Consider the following approach:

When you have a stock of assets at disposal stage,


1.      Reuse or Resell: Examine the assets for if it can be utilized further either inside the organization or outside the organization. Donating old PCs to charitable organizations & schools or reselling them can help those organizations and at the same time extend product lifespan while avoiding their disposal in landfills etc. Donation can also result in a tax break for the organization.


One more advantage of reusing the IT assets is that it creates 296 more jobs per every 10,000 tons of material disposed. Hence, creating new career opportunities for many unemployed people.


An important thing to take care before donating or reselling the assets is destruction of stored data and verification of working status.

Also, recycling of hardware emits a certain amount of carbon but that is not the case with reuse. Hence, reusing is best option for handling end-of-life of IT assets. There are websites that provide a list of charitable organizations that accept old computers (e.g. yahoo directory).


2.      Recycle: The products can be recycled for extracting useful raw materials from them and using them for production of new assets. Electronics takeback coalition provides a list of responsible recyclers which organizations can refer to as a trusted source.

Few important points to be taken care of while recycling the products are:

o   Perform due diligence regarding compliance with local regulations

o   Obtain certificate of compliance

o   Track the asset being recycled to lowest component level for reporting purpose


3.      Takeback: Many vendors like IBM, HP, Dell etc. have started asset takeback programs where they takeback the assets at end-of-life and utilize the same for production of newer assets through appropriate recycling.

The organizations can enter into an agreement with vendor during procurement stage and establish takeback as a part of purchase price for reliable TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).


Appropriate handling of e-waste is as important as procuring right assets and using them in an optimal way. Reiterating the point I mention in first blog, it is of utmost importance to have a lifecycle perspective towards asset management. All the points that I have mentioned in throughout the blog series are interconnected. For example, because of heavy carbon emission during production of a PC, it becomes more important to prolong its' useful life through reuse.


I hope this blog series would have provided some useful insights into eco & pocket friendly management of IT assets. I would be glad to receive your thoughts / ideas as comments and have a healthy discussion.



Note: - All numbers are obtained from website of US EPA.

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