PC Recycling, Refurbishing Industry Expected To Boom

The number of installed personal computers (PCs) worldwide is close to 800 million, with the United States accounting for nearly 33 percent of these systems. IDC, a subsidiary of IDG (a technology media, research, and events company) announced on Nov. 1 it expects the recycling and refurbishing industry to expand to meet increasing global regulations.

The PC industry has been a leading driver of economic growth in the past three decades. The explosion in the use of computers in businesses has been driven by the need to modernize work processes and boost productivity, while the Internet, entertainment and other digital applications were among the primary drivers of PC adoption in the consumer market.

PC penetration exceeds 65 percent of all U.S. households and is virtually 100 percent in the commercial sector. Continued growth is expected, however, as businesses and consumers shift to portable PCs and flat-panel displays. What to do with the millions of PCs and peripheral devices as they are retired has sparked a new debate that is likely to intensify, prompting the inevitable involvement of lawmakers and government.

"Millions of systems will be moving out of homes and offices and will have to be properly disposed. Some will have their life elongated through a data cleansing and refurbishing process, others will be de-manufactured with their various parts reused by other industries, while others will be completely destroyed," said David Daoud (ddaoud@idc.com), research manager for IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker and Personal Computing programs.

Most companies have yet to include asset disposition in their PC ownership cost analysis, and consider a good strategy as one that would protect them from possible legal problems and generate residual income to their organization. The preliminary results of a survey currently being conducted by IDC suggest that less than 37 percent of commercial entities of all sizes have a formal PC recycling and end-of-life policy. The results of the survey will be available in December.

In the meantime, IDC has published its first research into this area, outlining how the recycling and refurbishing industry is likely to expand and create a new market. IDC expects consolidation in the recycling and refurbishing industry will accelerate under the pressure of an expanding body of federal and state disposal regulations.

The IDC research, Trash to Treasure: Old PC Equipment Poses Risks, Opportunities (IDC #34226), reviews the various aspects of compliance when dealing with PC end-of-life disposition. The report reviews data-related and environmental-related compliance while seeking to establish basic guidelines for both IT vendors and their customers when it comes to grasping the challenges and establishing procedures.

IDC is currently launching a multiclient study to further examine this market -- United States PC and Display Disposal/Recycling and Compliance. The objective of this study is to understand the fast-evolving dynamics in the computer recycling sector with an analysis of the recovery and waste of PCs and displays in the United States. For more information on this multiclient study, contact Jon Guloyan at (508) 935-4296.

IDC: http://www.idc.com

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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