Laptop remanufacturing outfit Circular Computing claims it is receiving inbound calls from resellers for the first time amid rising awareness around sustainable IT.
A trademark of Portsmouth-based IT asset reclaim outfit A2C, Circular Computing takes in old laptops from leasing firms, ITADs and resellers before rebuilding them “as new” at a facility in the United Arab Emirates (pictured).
Resellers are becoming less wedded to the idea of selling only new PCs but are distrustful of refurbished machines, claimed Conrad Mohr, Circular Computing lead at A2C.
Remanufacturing offers a happy medium, he argued.
“As long as you can tick the risk box, then everyone’s very open to the idea of buying not new. Our laptops go through a five-hour process. They get completely disassembled and rebuilt to an as-new condition and we include a brand-new three or five year warranty with it. So you get the IT you need for less, and you help the planet at the same time,” Mohr said.
“A year ago, most of the big [resellers] weren’t interested in speaking to us, but this year they’re phoning us to do business with them.”
Mohr admitted that the acceptance of second-user PCs in the UK and Europe lags other countries such as Canada, where schools receive refurbished PCs via a government scheme.
“We feel a bit like Elon Musk in the early days of Tesla when he popped up and said ‘electric cars are great’, and everyone else went ‘yeah right, what are electric cars for?’,” Mohr said.
“But we’re now in an era where people are more open to looking at alternative ideas. The EU is adopting new green public procurement guidelines, which will include the provision to buy refurbished and remanufactured products. Crown Commercial Service and other framework agreements in the UK and Europe are also adopting similar language and thinking processes.”
A laptop has a 1,200kg waste footprint, with 190,000 litres of water typically going into making a new machine, according to Mohr.
“We can’t continue to keep making new stuff, adding to the greenhouse gas emissions and having kids as young as four digging up the cobalt that goes into our batteries,” he said.
Mohr drew a distinction between remanufactured and refurbished products, describing the 250 staff that work at its UAE facility to “artisans”.
The facility has the capacity to remanufacture 5,000 laptops a month.
“I’ve seen them repair cracked plastics using little polyethylene, plastic tube strips. They melt them down, they sand it down and then the whole thing just gets re-sprayed and looks like brand new again,” he said.
“I spend a lot of time trying to unwind the confusion in customers’ minds. It has to be done properly or else there will be a gold rush towards refurbished kit. If you get refurbished kit then it will save money but they’ll end up with a whole bunch of problems unless it’s dealt with properly. What quality guarantee does it have? Is it actually going to work when it turns up? What’s the warranty? How about the warranty on the battery?”