Unwanted Computer Equipment:
A Guide to Re-use
(Updated May 2001)
guide has been researched and written by AEA Technology
Environment for the Department of Trade and Industry.
DTI and AEA Technology Environment can give no assurance
that the information supplied in this document is accurate
or complete, and no legal responsibility is accepted for
any errors, omissions or misleading statements.
By Patricia Hewitt MP, Minister of State for Small Business
and E-Commerce in the Department of Trade and Industry.
gives me great pleasure to publish this guide which outlines
practical steps to refurbishing and re-using unwanted IT
equipment. I would like to thank those organisations involved
in the computer re-use schemes for the invaluable information
provided to the survey. This guide, intended as a source
of advice and guidance on the benefits of refurbishment
and re-use of unwanted computers, also identifies significant
market opportunities for those engaged in the business of
refurbishing computers. The guide includes a number of case
studies with examples of UK and overseas refurbishment schemes
and addresses key issues such as data protection and liability
for the final waste management when the equipment eventually
reaches the end of its working life.
In the light of the proposed EU Directive on Waste from
Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), which seeks
to increase recycling and re-use of electrical and electronic
equipment, this guide illustrates the fact that a number
of UK organisations have already made a good start by dramatically
increasing the rate of refurbishment during 1999. Refurbishment
and re-use of old equipment offer both environmental and
social benefits. Environmental benefits include the conservation
of natural resources such as raw materials and energy as
well as a reduction in the amount of waste going to landfill.
Refurbishment also offers social benefits such as providing
computers at lower cost to individuals or organisations
who may not be able to afford to buy new equipment. In addition,
many community-based schemes often provide training and
employment opportunities to the long term unemployed.
commend this guide to those organisations which are considering
donating IT equipment to or purchasing IT equipment from
the refurbishment sector.
total annual waste arisings of electrical and electronic
equipment in the UK have been estimated to be in excess
of 900,000 tonnes. Computers, workstations and systems
account for nearly 14% of this waste arising. Re-use
of computer equipment wherever possible could greatly reduce
companies and charitable organisations in the UK accept
old computers, refurbish them, and supply them to various
markets. The commercial asset management of the old,
unwanted, but still working computers is increasingly common
(indeed, many of the computer manufacturers have take-back
centres or operate asset recovery programmes tailored to
customers’ needs). On the other hand, non-profit-making
refurbishers rely on free or charitable donations of old
computers to run their service.
“It does not make sense to scrap all unwanted IT
equipment when a certain proportion may have great
value for second users like schools and charities.
Provided refurbishment is carried out in a professional
and environmentally responsible manner, these machines
should be put to good use. By carefully selecting
a refurbisher, we have found that a high quality,
auditable and secure service can be obtained for
Service, Department of Regional Development, Belfast)
many large companies and organisations, the increasingly
frequent upgrading of their computer systems creates problems
and costs for storage and subsequent disposal of their
unwanted computers. What should a company or organisation
do with old, unwanted computers? One option is to
ensure they go for re-use. Many large companies
may wish that their old computers could be put to a second
use which benefits society and/or the community.
This approach can demonstrate a donor company’s social
responsibility and can generate public relations benefits.
donors of old, working computers can have various concerns
about making sure that their equipment ‘goes to a good home’
and ensuring that their good name is not harmed (through
association with poor quality refurbishment). Typical
which end-markets does the refurbisher supply?
what levels of refurbishment is the equipment subjected?
what standards does the refurbisher work?
the refurbisher guarantee data-security and/or confidentiality?
takes on the liability if refurbished equipment should
go wrong during second use?
takes on responsibility for end-of-life management of
of refurbished computers tend to be more concerned about
the price they pay for the equipment, the specification
of the equipment offered, what software is being offered,
how reliable the equipment is likely to be (and the level
of warranty offered), and the level of after-sales support
available should technical advice or repairs be necessary.
on responses to our survey, a growing market for refurbished
computers exists, and the number of machines refubished
each year has increased five fold since 1996.
Figure 1 - Growth in UK Computer Equipment Refurbishment
marketplace is in a constant state of flux. Prices
for refurbished computers can vary enormously within a range
between prices of cheap new equipment and material scrap
values, depending on supply and demand levels.
handbook is a guide for those companies and organisations
contemplating offering their unwanted computers for a second
use. It contains sections on types of refurbishment
activity in the UK, examples of schemes operating in the
UK, examples of overseas refurbishment experience and a
directory of companies and organisations claiming to be
actively engaged in computer refurbishment in the UK.
The directory has been compiled from the responses to a
survey of UK refurbishers, conducted on the Department of
Trade and Industry’s behalf, in January and February 2000.
donors of old, working computers, particularly large responsible
companies, are naturally very keen not to become associated
with a system which could become branded with a reputation
for poor quality and reliability. To overcome these
concerns, it is important that their old equipment is transferred
to a reputable refurbisher. Before donating computers,
a company should ascertain which refurbishers can offer
a service commensurate with its expectations.
of the refurbishers surveyed operate to the quality standard
ISO 9002. Several of those who didn’t have this accreditation
were either considering or seeking accreditation to this
standard. Since our last survey, some refurbishers
have also achieved accreditation to ISO 14001 environmental
management systems standard. A few refurbishers were
considering EMAS accreditation.
receipt of unwanted computers, almost all refurbishers carry
out electrical safety testing. Checking for viruses
is also very common, although some refurbishers claim to
‘wipe’ all software from the computers thereby making virus-checking
unnecessary. The majority of refurbishers surveyed
carried out ‘Year 2000’ checks and upgraded equipment where
required. A few refurbishers also offer software auditing,
data destruction, debranding or component recovery.
wiping is a critical issue, particularly when computers
come from corporate sources. The need to ensure that
all information has been removed is paramount. Simply
deleting files under DOS or Windows does NOT actually delete
those files – only the file names are removed from the disk’s
index. The data contained in the files remains stored
on the disk. Furthermore, the name, location, date
and time stamp of each file may still be available in the
system (swap) files. If this data is not overwritten
before turning off the computer, these swap files could
be viewed by anyone with access to the computer.
a computer is to be refurbished, there are a number of available
methods for ‘file wiping’ or ‘overwriting’ deleted files.
These methods erase files by overwriting disk memory (usually
with ‘1’s and ‘0’s) several times followed by verification.
Suppliers can request that refurbishers use a particular
disk wiping program, or request that the disk is removed
addition, if a computer or its components cannot be refurbished,
and consequently is to be recycled or disposed of, it is
essential that the disk is removed and destroyed to make
sure that confidential information cannot be recovered.
This shredding process can allow any aluminium to be recovered.
are becoming more aware of these data security issues and
should be looking for refurbishers who can provide a fully
audited service. Data wiping also removes any software
from the disk.
most refurbishers are quite capable of installing software
provided the licences are in order, only a few offer loading
of licensed software as part of their service.
of Equipment Offered
demand for refurbished computers is mostly for the highest
specification at the lowest price. Consequently, most
refurbishers tend to process medium and high specification
computers in order to satisfy this demand. In general
the aim is to supply computers with enough memory to run
Windows-based software. However, some refurbishers
surveyed were able to find markets for lower specification
computers where end-user needs did not demand the very latest
certain percentage of computers received by refurbishers
surveyed was deemed to be unfit to repair. Disposal
routes chosen by refurbishers tended to vary between ‘disposal
to landfill’ and ‘dismantling for spares and recycling’.
Some refurbishers with metals recovery businesses were able
to recycle in-house.
takes on the liability?
is an important question for donating companies and organisations.
Many refurbishers offer to take on the liability for the
equipment which they receive. However, some responses
to our survey suggest that this is not a crystal-clear area.
Companies and organisations with unwanted computers to donate
are advised to check precisely on their potential exposure
Who takes on the End-Of-Life (EOL) responsibility?
are moving forward within the European Union on a proposal
for a Directive on end-of-life management of waste from
electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Companies
and organisations with unwanted equipment on their hands
should be aware of, and keep up-to-date with these developments
at the European level.
level of support offered with refurbished computers is a
major concern for end-users. This may also be a major
concern for donors, especially when they wish to direct
their unwanted computers to a particular social or beneficial
use where provision of a good after-sales service adds to
the perception of quality, thus reflecting back on themselves.
end-users require a working computer which they can install
simply, plug-in, and operate without hassle. Usually,
they are not technically-qualified to deal with hardware,
operating system, or software problems which might arise.
Advice without ‘techno-speak’ may be needed from time to
time, and a repair service may also be needed (preferably
covered by a warranty).
refurbishers surveyed stated that they offer a help-line
service for advising and helping end-users overcome their
technical problems. It is noteworthy that a national
scheme to supply refurbished computers to schools in the
Netherlands (see Overseas Experiences) identified this aspect
as a vital condition for success of the scheme, and set
out to provide a 24-hour help-line service for schools encountering
of the refurbishment companies surveyed offered warranties
of between 30 and 90 days on their refurbished equipment
(the scheme in the Netherlands offers a 2 year warranty,
and the Computers within Reach scheme requires a 1 year
warranty). Most refurbishers offer a return-to-base
repair service sometimes with the provision of a help-line.
Some supply a replacement computer whilst repairing and
restocking the old computer.
all refurbishers claim that they have no problems with supplies
Benefits of Refurbishment
in the Community is a unique movement of companies across
the UK committed to continually improving their positive
impact on society. Business in the Community has a core
membership of 650 companies, including 75% of the FTSE 100.
bridging the digital divide
development of the digital age is improving communications
across all communities and will give greater access to information
than ever before. It is estimated that 500 million people
globally will be online by 2003. The downside is that these
people will be those who already have the interest and the
resources. The technology that can create greater opportunity
for social and economic regeneration could leave some people
out. Whole sections of our communities could be excluded
from using new technologies through a combination of fear,
lack of opportunity, skills or resources.
computers is one way that businesses can help bridge the
digital divide, by providing resources for community groups.
It is very easy for businesses to take this a stage further
and to reap real benefits for both company and employees
and to have a dramatic impact on their local communities.
you wondered why so many companies are investing in their
you want to attract and retain motivated people?
you want to help to bridge the ICT skills gap?
in the Community, through its comm.unity campaign, can help you realise the benefits for your company,
your employees and community. They can show you what other
companies have done and help you to learn from their successes.
Corporate Community Investment?
partners, investors and future employees judge a company
on a wider range of criteria than ever before. MORI
research in 1998 found that when forming an opinion about
a company, 77% of people think it is important to know about
the company's activities in society and the community. Involvement
in projects with a specific ICT focus can deliver both general
and specific benefits:
- Reinforce brand identity and profile
- Recruit and retain motivated and loyal people
- Create opportunities for team and individual development
- Help established new markets
- Improve the ICT skills available in the labour market
for your employees:
- Develop leadership potential
- Improve communication skills
- Broaden experience
- Improve self-esteem
for the community
- The ability to use and benefit from services available on the
Internet Improved ICT skills
- Stronger more viable charity and voluntary sector support
- Empowered individuals and flourishing communities
- The ability to create content on the Internet that reflects local
Your company can be involved by:
to put your company's skills and resources into developing
the community's ability to use technology effectively. Ask
for our publications or for details of events where you
can find out more about how companies are bridging the digital
free professional services for an agreed number of
long-term strategic relationships with a voluntary organisation
or community group
individuals in the use of computers
a representative on a voluntary organisation management
and Applications for Refurbished Computers
main markets for refurbished computers are education (schools,
libraries, training centres), charities (administration
and use by the disabled), households and small businesses
in the UK, trade sales and export to developing countries.
section describes the application of computers in each of
these markets, the specification of computers required,
the suitability of refurbished computers and any specific
issues associated with the use of refurbished computers.
of schemes to provide computers to schools and disabled
people are given later in this handbook (see case studies).
use of computers in schools is growing rapidly. Where
computing used to be a specialist subject taught in a dedicated
classroom, schools are now using IT throughout the curriculum.
The increasing availability of information from the internet
and from multimedia software on CD-ROM has provided a vast
resource of educational material for primary and secondary
“We believe that there is a strong case for refurbishing
and recycling first-class computers which meet the
requirements of schools”
Bank of Scotland)
schools now recognise the potential of IT in the classroom
but many do not have the resources necessary to realise
that potential. Some schools still use very old computers
that are not compatible with modern operating systems
and software. In addition, many schools have too
few computers for a whole class of children to use, which
makes it difficult to integrate IT into lessons. These
problems are particularly acute in primary schools where
the average age of computers can be higher than the average
age of pupils using them. At the other end of the
scale, several pioneering schools with greater resources
are using computers routinely in most subject areas and
exploiting innovative learning opportunities such as emailing
schools overseas and even communicating with astronauts
Government has recognised the need to improve IT access
in schools with the launch of the National Grid for Learning
(NGfL). Under the NGfL, an overall £1 billion will
be spent up to 2002 on support to NGfL and various initiatives
such as training for teachers and librarians. The
Government aim is for all schools to be connected to the
internet by 2002. Additional priority has also been
given to teaching IT skills to trainee teachers and improving
the quality of curriculum-focused software for primary
schools and local education authorities prefer to buy
new computer equipment which can support the latest software.
However the high cost of new equipment and the competing
demands for school budgets mean that most schools have
fewer new computers than they would like. Refurbished
computers offer a possible solution.
using refurbished computers, a school can achieve potentially
a higher computer to pupil ratio than can be achieved
through purchasing new equipment, thus giving more scope
to incorporate IT into the classroom.
computers need not be an alternative to new computers;
instead they can be used together. For example, a Local
Area Network (LAN) can comprise a new high specification
server providing software and data storage and a number
of lower specification refurbished machines acting as
from existing schemes in the UK and overseas has shown
that the following factors are important to the successful
application of refurbished computers in schools:
should be capable of running windows based software,
preferably with a CD-ROM and a modem for internet access.
A minimum Pentium processor, 16 Mb RAM and 500 Mb
hard disk specification is recommended.
should be advised on the best way to install and, if appropriate,
network the computers. LANs may be a good option
but there can be difficulties if different types
of computer are networked together.
should be provided with the computers. This
will enable teachers to make the most of the equipment
and solve minor technical problems. A telephone
help-line is also valuable.
training may be helpful, particularly in smaller schools
where teachers have limited experience of computers.
and maintenance should be the responsibility of the
computer supplier. Schools often have one or more teachers
with the necessary skills to solve IT problems but
it takes them away from their teaching responsibilities.
National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education
(NAACE) have produced a practical guide for schools considering using
refurbished computers. Indeed, there are a number
of organisations that can provide teachers and local authorities
with practical advice on the use of IT equipment in schools.
Contact details for these organisations are given at the
back of this handbook.
have traditionally used low specification computers for
cataloguing applications. But they are now increasingly
involved in encouraging IT access for all through the provision
of information on CD-ROMs (local information, encyclopaedia,
etc.) and internet access. Library computers are now
used by the general public during the day, often as their
first experience of computers, and by schoolchildren looking
for help with homework projects during early evening and
weekend. A £20 million plus matching funding initiative
exists under the NGfL for training of librarians.
for schools, the minimum specification is typically Pentium
processor-based and local networking with some newer machines
may be beneficial. Many libraries benefit from donations
of new or used computers from local companies. Such
donations allow the library to provide additional services
and help the company to raise its profile in the local community.
centres and job clubs offer people their first experience
of computing and also give opportunities to train in basic
IT skills such as word processing to boost employment prospects.
Refurbished medium specification computers are often perfectly
adequate provided they can run at least Windows-based software
and compatible application software. This is particularly
valuable for people with basic secretarial skills who are
returning to work after some years away.
is a Government initiative for low income learners and families
which aims to help them break the cycle of information poverty.
The objectives are to increase the employment prospects
and learning opportunities for individuals and families
who have little or no access to Information and Communications
Technology (ICT). The initiative is intended to benefit
those receiving state benefits whose immediate need for
use for a computer is to look for, train for, or to help
retain, employment regardless of age or disability.
its overall aims the initiative seeks to:
and support ready access to, or ownership of,
low cost computers by job seekers, learners and families
on low incomes
employability and access to learning through the development
of computer literacy and the acquisition of new skills
the involvement of the ICT supply industry in the scheme,
for example through the contribution of unsold equipment
or software and licenses for use by low income
learners and families unable to afford the latest
within reach was included in the March 1999 budget as a
£15 million, three year pilot scheme. DfEE will provide
a subsidy per computer to computer refurbishing organisations
and ICT suppliers working with local community and voluntary
groups to supply at very low cost, or loan, good quality
reconditioned and unsold computers to job seekers, low income
learners and families. Computers within Reach will
run until 2002.
will be a series of pilot projects across the country bringing
together employers, computer recyclers and ICT suppliers
with community and learning organisations. It will
put good quality reconditioned computers into the hands
of job seekers, individual learners and families who could
not otherwise afford them. The initiative will also
support the environment by preventing the waste of useful
specification for the computers has been set at a high level
as the scheme will run until 2002. The hardware requirements
133 MHz Pentium processor (or equivalent Mac
software requirements are:
will install the computer at the purchasers home, and connect
it to the internet. The warranty covers maintenance
for a minimum of one year, and replacement in the event
of failure within one year.
system (windows 95/98 or MacOS)
to date virus scanning package
ABOUT SUPPLIERS, ETC, DUE IN THE EARLY PART OF APRIL
DfEE is also investing an extra £25 million for IT skills
training. Some of those eligible for computer packages
under the pilot schemes will therefore be able to get training
for a recognised qualification in IT as well.
may use computers for administration and stock control,
or they may pass them on to disadvantaged groups or individuals
such as the disabled.
is generally a low level of IT use within charities, with
the exception of head office administration in the larger
organisations. Many small charities and major charity
shop networks use paper-based administration systems which
are easily understood by the volunteer workforce, many of
whom are retired and have had no experience of computers.
This situation may change in the future as IT awareness
increases, and this could lead to a significant market for
moderate specification refurbished computers, perhaps networked
to a head office or central depot.
are many applications of computers for the disabled.
The application and the specific needs of the individual
will determine whether refurbished computers are appropriate.
Some typical examples are given below.
Many disabled people are housebound for much of the day
and a computer can provide therapy as well as being an invaluable
tool in some circumstances. Games and word processing
are the most common applications with requirements varying
from basic machines to high specification computers suitable
for multimedia games. Simple modifications to the
mouse or keyboard may be required to help those with hand
and arm mobility problems.
Schools for the disabled use computers in similar ways to
mainstream schools, with graphics and sounds particularly
effective for children with learning difficulties.
Physically robust machines are generally required.
Retraining in IT skills is sometimes appropriate for those
who have suffered an injury which means they cannot continue
with their previous job, e.g. a spinal injury or stroke.
Laptop computers are particularly suitable for this application
as patients on bed rest can use them, and they can be loaned
to people in their own homes.
People with speaking or writing difficulties can use computers
as an aid to communication. Email and computer generated
voice systems are used by those who can’t speak and speech
recognition systems allow paralysed people to write letters
and even books. However, such specialist applications
tend to be very memory intensive and only the latest computer
technology can cope well. Only the highest specification
refurbished computers are therefore likely to be suitable.
is a growing market in the UK for refurbished computers
for businesses and households. This market is served
by a range of companies as their main business or as a sideline
to the sale of new computers. A selection of companies
involved in computer refurbishment and used computer sales
is given at the back of this handbook.
market is still fairly limited because most businesses and
individuals prefer to buy new computers with ready installed
software and technical support. Refurbished machines
will only be considered if they offer a significant cost
saving to consumers. This means that refurbishers
can only make a profit if they can obtain computers at low
or zero cost.
businesses and private users specify high-specification
computers with a modem for internet access. However
there may be niche applications with lower computing demands,
for example travel agencies linked to a central booking
the USA a market has developed for second computers in households.
Parents with a high specification multimedia PC are buying
another computer - not to be used by the children - for
letter writing and household management. Refurbished
machines may be ideal for such an application.
Export to Developing Countries
main markets for computers in developing countries are schools,
small businesses, community projects and health centres.
User requirements for these applications are broadly similar
to the UK, as most of the software is international.
However, as equipment standards are lower in many countries,
low and medium specification machines are often acceptable.
number of refurbishing companies sell direct to markets
in Eastern Europe and there are also some charity schemes
that provide computers to developing countries. Reliability
is a key requirement as there may be few trained technicians
available in the area. Some charity schemes work with
local agencies to provide installation and technical support.
Studies in the UK
Dataserv-CES provide services to charities at cost,
and our role as a co-ordinator has produced a very
helpful service for the charities and for the donors.
Stelling, Contract Sales Manager, Dataserv-CES
Companies are often interested in donating equipment
to charities either in their local area or to a national
organisation who co-ordinate donations for them to various
causes. Charities have very different focuses for
their donations, and although a company has a large quantity
of equipment to donate, their preferred charity will not
want some of the equipment if it doesn’t meet a minimum
specification. However, other charities may have lower
specification requirements. In order to more closely
match donations to requirements, Dataserv-CES have worked
with a number of charities, including;
Kind direct (formerly Gifts In Kind) - a large
international charity who donate to other charities needing
to set up offices or other facilities.
Computers for Education - they donate equipment
to schools and other educational institutions. They
are focused on providing technical advice about thin-client
technology which can make older computers (386/486) perform
like a new Pentiums with access to the internet for
for Africa – they donate equipment to schools
and charities in Africa and involve school children
in the UK in preparing the computers and in setting
this scheme, companies donate to registered charities of
their choice, and charities get the equipment they require.
Dataserv offer support to the donor in explaining any charges
for transport or refurbishment, and provide follow up technical
advice to the recipients of the equipment. The costs are
met by either the company donating the equipment, the charity
accepting the equipment or the recipient of the equipment.
Free Computers for Education
In Kind direct
St Mary at Hill
for the Disabled
for the Disabled is a registered charity that provides computers
for disabled individuals and groups in Essex. Started
about four years ago, the scheme now provides about 200
computers each year and employs twelve volunteer staff.
scheme obtains computers at low or zero cost from local
households and businesses. It then checks the machines for
electrical safety and Year 2000 compliance before passing
them on to local groups and individuals who have requested
them. The scheme takes no profit and the computers
are sold at cost price, which is typically £0-200.
Most of the computers are 3-6 year old medium specification
machines, although some higher specification multi-media
computers are also provided.
installed, the computers belong to the disabled person or
group. If there is a problem then they can usually
be repaired at a small cost or free of charge by Computers
for the Disabled. In this way the scheme provides
valuable occupational therapy and computer-based education.
“We need help from companies offering our charity
PCs and all parts so we can continue the good work.”
for Schools is a wholly independent charity, and is a social
initiative committed to helping industry fill the ICT skills
gap. Tools for Schools aims to play a part in equipping
the future workforce with the skills needed for the ‘knowledge
economy’, by enabling schools to give their pupils access
to computers in sufficient numbers to make a difference.
A single computer shared by dozens of pupils is considered
to be unacceptable. Like textbooks, computers should be
seen as a basic learning tool, and not as an added luxury.
Tools for Schools computers are intended to supplement a
school's existing computers, and not replace old computers
or funds for new purchases. With Tools for Schools, several
high quality, refurbished computers can be purchased for
the price of a new one.
a registered charity, Tools for Schools is committed to
giving schools high quality computers at low cost. Tools
for Schools charge schools a nominal fee of £50 per machine
and subsidise the rest of the cost through sponsorship.
Companies and other organisations interested in donating
computers that meet the required technical specification
(486s and above) can benefit because, nowadays, they need
school leavers and university graduates to be ICT-literate.
The country also benefits because the economy is dependent
on a skilled workforce for contributing to the nation's
for schools is committed to giving schools computers which,
when complementing new hardware, can make a significant
addition to a school's ICT investment and development plan.
Tools for Schools computers are refurbished professionally,
tested rigorously, are year 2000 compliant and meet strict
quality control criteria. All computers come with
a one-year replacement warranty, and are accompanied by
full instructions on safe and effective installation.
Following the enormous success of the Stichting Computerbemiddeling
Onderwijs (SCBO) project, which set and achieved a target
of placing 75,000 refurbished (‘Furbies’) computers into
schools by April 1999, the government of the Netherlands
requested the project to be enlarged to encompass all social,
cultural and welfare sectors in the country (i.e. non-profit
organisations unable to afford new computers and enough
of them). Education, however, remains the highest
priority. The name was changed to Stichting Furbie
Computers to reflect their change of emphasis.
order to enlarge the project, many more computers needed
to be donated. To stimulate donations, the Ministry
of Finance introduced a tax measure, which allows a company
donating 486 or higher computers and SVGA monitors to get
a credit for each computer donated. This credit can
be used to reduce the company’s tax bill on company profits.
This initiative helped Stichting Furbie Computers to obtain
85,000 donated computers in 1999.
of these computers were supplied free of charge to primary
schools with the help of a Fl20 million subsidy from the
Ministry of Education. Stichting Furbie Computers is discussing
with the Ministry how to provide at least a further 30,000
minimum specification delivered by Stichting Furbie Computers
is a Pentium 75 to 166 MHz, 32 Mb ram, 1 Gb hard disk drive
(minimum), 40X CDROM, soundcard and speakers, SVGA 15” monitor,
mouse, keyboard, Win95, 2 years warranty. The price
charged is Fl650 (about £185).
The project is booming. We get a lot of orders,
but also a lot of requests to deliver computers
for social projects. Our project solves the
problem of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.
Moot, Director, Stichting Furbie Computers.
has been a great deal of interest in this project, leading
to developments abroad (for example, Belgium, Italy and
Scotland). These developments are not on the same
scale as in the Netherlands as yet. However, the Scottish
Furbie Foundation encountered serious difficulties due to
lack of support, and has been shelved.
Hans Moot (DIrector)
AA Den Haag
70 349 0575
70 349 0502
examples of organisations active in the field of refurbishing
old computers in the USA for charitable use are:
Share the Technology is a New Jersey non-profit making organisation,
which operates a national computer donation database.
It aims to bring together donors and recipients (e.g. non-profit
making organisations, people with disabilities, schools
etc.) to salvage working 486s, Pentium PCs and PowerPC Mac
computers rather than letting equipment go to waste.
The database lists computer donation requests and offers
not only in the USA but also in other countries. No
charge is made to ‘post’ an offer/request listing.
database can be accessed and searched through the Internet
and instructions are provided on placing an offer or a request
on the list.
(Students Recycling Used Technology) started in Oregon,
in 1995, when a school started refurbishing computers donated
by Intel. These refurbished systems were then donated
to local schools through the education department.
The StRUT programme has now expanded nation-wide.
Supported by a grant from the Intel Foundation, the
StRUT Alliance supports student recycling programmes
across the USA. Programmes now exist in Texas, Oregon, New
Mexico, Arizona, California, and Massachusetts.
15,000 computers have been donated, and over 10,000 computers
have been refurbished and placed in classrooms. Students
receive hands-on experience in building, repairing,
and supporting computers that are donated or built
from donated components. Training is designed
to help students obtain technology qualifications and/or
can lead to college pre-engineering programmes and a career
in information technology. Nearly 1,000 Students receiving
technology skills and experience
Equipment (safety Regulations) 1994
safety of refurbished or second-hand equipment is controlled
by these regulations. All persons who supply
electrical equipment in the course of business, including
auctions, must ensure that the equipment is safe.
Whilst there is no mandatory requirement for refurbished
or second-hand equipment to undergo any safety testing,
suppliers will want to ensure that the equipment is safe
so as to avoid committing an offence under the Regulations.
The safety requirements of the Regulations cover all aspects
of safety and are not limited to electrical safety.
Further guidance is available from local authority Trading
specific health and safety legislation exists on how goods
should be transported unless they are classified as hazardous,
but guidance is available from the Health and Safety Executive
are required, through the Manual Handling Operations Regulations
1992, to ensure that activities involving manual contact
with hazardous materials are avoided where this is reasonably
Management Licensing and Regulation
UK interpretation of the EC waste framework Directive is
that if a substance or object continues to be used for its
original purpose, even after minor repair or refurbishment,
then it is not waste. Consequently, vehicles transporting
refurbishable items to refurbishment premises do not need
to be registered as a waste carrier.
premises where the principal function is the refurbishment
of computers would not generally be considered to be a waste
recovery operation. It follows that a refurbisher
not carrying out a waste disposal operation or waste recovery
operation would not need to inform the Environment Agency
or SEPA of their activities. If a refurbisher cannot
refurbish a machine, and sends that machine for recycling,
then the refurbisher would not need to be licensed.
However, if a refurbisher was dismantling a significant
number of machines on their premises to obtain spare parts,
this could be seen as a recovery operation, which would
mean that the refurbisher would need to obtain a licence.
Guidance on this issue can be obtained from the Waste Policy
Section of the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions.
All our computers are leased. Does this guide apply to me?
If you think that the computers you have used should be
donated to good causes, then perhaps you should be considering
re-negotiating your leasing arrangements to enable this
computers are old. Does anyone want them?
if they are still working. A number of refurbishers
are able to find markets for old, low-specification computers
where having the latest technology is not essential.
My company has a number of non-PC computers it no longer needs.
Would refurbishers be interested in these?
many refurbishers surveyed will take any type of computer.
My company is small and we have very few old computers to offer for refurbishment.
Can they still be refurbished?
some refurbishers will accept small numbers of equipment.
don’t I just offer my old computers to a local school/charity?
you can, but remember that some refurbishers offer a total
service of warranties, support and back-up in the event
of problems. Remember also that your local school/charity
may only be interested in a small proportion of your old
company has unwanted computers to offer for refurbishment.
How do I go about this?
following checklist may be useful:
1. What are my existing arrangements
for disposing of old computers?
2. What are my current computer
3. Do I want to change this arrangement?
4. How much will it cost to send
my old computers for refurbishment? (transport, processing
5. Data security - what guarantee
is there that all my data will be fully erased?
6. Where do my liabilities stop?
1. Will the refurbisher take ALL
my unwanted equipment?
2. Under what conditions will the
refurbisher pay me for my old computers?
3. How confidential is the refurbishment
4. Does the refurbisher provide
an asset recovery report on all the equipment which
I have sent to him?
5. What happens to old computers
which cannot be refurbished - recycled or dumped?
1. I’ve decided to donate to good
causes. What costs are involved?
2. What will it cost me to have
my refurbished computers offered free of charge to
3. What range of good causes can
the refurbisher supply to?
4. I want my donated computers to
have a reputation for safety and reliability.
What checks does the refurbisher carry out?
- Electrical safety checking
- Year 2000 compliance
- Virus checking
- Data removal from hard
- Hardware testing
5. Is a site/process inspection
6. How do I go about donating to
local good causes?
7. Can I direct my donations to
specific good causes? How do I check this has
8. Can I donate software which we
no longer use?
9. Can I have my old computers marked
“Donated to “x” by “y”?
web sites of individual refurbishers, see directory.
Educators & Publishers (PEP). Lists computer recycling
programmes (USA, Canada and
(Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling) directory
of equipment recyclers.
Environmental Protection Agency, Common Sense Initiative,
computer recycling site.
World - computer recycling section.
Computers for Learning Programme
National Grid for Learning.
of Trade and Industry
Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA)
of Trade & Industry
Buckingham Palace Road
for Education & Employment (DfEE)
Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER)
and Teaching Scotland
Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE)
Information and Learning Technologies Association (NILTA)
Leeds College of Building
of Refurbishers in the UK
refurbishment business is undergoing rapid change, and many
organisations are entering or leaving the refurbishment
business. A survey carried out in January and February
2000 identified over 70 organisations (either companies
or charities) which refurbish computers, and the directory
is based on those organisations that responded to the questionnaire
survey. Companies with unwanted computers to offer
for refurbishment should ascertain for themselves refurbishers
who can offer a service commensurate with their expectations.
most of the refurbishers in the directory refurbish personal
computers, there are refurbishers who specialise in refurbishing
larger systems, and these are listed separately in the directory.
are also a number of companies who recycle old computers,
and a list of these can be obtained through the ICER web
site – www.icer.org
Map showing refurbisher locations
list of organisations
(this list is also available
in PDF format
NAACE, “Refurbished Personal Computers for Schools”
to the Business support page