HP recycles waste program in Canada

Hewlett-Packard Co. is bringing to Canada a program that puts the company in the role of high-tech garbage collector to businesses and consumers.

A take-back program was launched Tuesday through a link on HP Canada’s Web site. The service will include pickup, transportation and evaluation for reuse, donation or recycling. Products covered under the program include PCs, printers, servers and scanners. Donated items will go to Computers For Schools, while the rest will be shipped to a recycling plant operated by Noranda Inc. in Nashville, Tenn. Prices for the service range from $20 to $52 based on the quantity of product returned.

HP launched the program in the United States last year, which served as a sort of pilot for the Canadian market, said Frances Edmonds, HP Canada’s manager of environmental health and safety.

“”We wanted to make sure we weren’t just taking the U.S. Web site ordering tool and just sticking a Canadian dollar sign on there,”” she said. “”We wanted to really ensure, for instance, that we had the French version available, and also look at the regulatory implications of shipping IT equipment around.””

Noranda vice-president of recycling Steve Skurnac said HP approached the company after providing recycling services for the hardware firm from the 1980s onward. Its internal recycling effort dates back to the 1950s, when it was dealing with copper scrap and old phone switch gear.

“”Finding a way to collect all of this stuff and then process in an environmentally safe and sound fashion — and then try and derive value from the commodity materials that are left in there — it’s a net cost operation to whoever is going to run it,”” he said. “”Part of the reason from other manufacturers is they don’t want to pay the bills.””

Edmonds agreed. “”Some people are definitely hesitant to pay to recycle IT equipment. They have some idea that it’s worth something or that HP would make money out of it, which is not the case,”” she said. “”The fee that we’re charging is a break-even fee.””

Though the need to frequently upgrade or replace old equipment may lead some organizations to lease more equipment, that doesn’t get them off the hook, said Chris Altobell, business development manager for HP’s product recycling solutions organization.

“”At the end of the day, there’s going to be a point at which that computer isn’t going to be useful anymore,”” he said. “”It still needs to be dealt with in an environmentally-friendly manner.””

HP quoted Enviros RIS research that estimates 67,324 tonnes of IT equipment would be disposed of by 2005. Skurnac said the Nashville plant was opened on the basis of expecting a minimum of half a million pounds per month, but it could handle much more. If the program proves especially successful in Canada, HP may open a plant locally, Altobell said.

Edmonds added that the take-back program is also helping HP feed back information to its design engineers on how to recycle things properly. “”We’ve had successful examples where they’ve made significant design changes that have improved the recycled content or the recyclability of the products as they’re coming off the production line,”” she said.

More on PC recycling and the industry’s environmental efforts in the July 26 edition of Computer Dealer News

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