Laptops on sale

Remanufacturing is the new refurbishment

The Circular Economy just got a high performance tier, says Billy MacInnes
Image: Shutterstock via Dennis

20 June 2024

“This is the moment sustainable IT has been waiting for.”

That’s quite an eye-catching statement. Even more so is that the moment referred to in that statement took place in Ireland. Yes, Ireland. How impressive is that?

The person who uttered those words is Stephen Haskew, group director of sustainability at Circular Computing, in an interview with IT Channel Oxygen.

Circular Computing happens to be part of the consortium, led by Irish company Green IT, that won the contract with the Office of Government Procurement, worth an estimated €30 million, to supply remanufactured laptops to public sector customers. Through its facility in the UAE, Circular Computing can produce up to 20,000 remanufactured units a month. The contract announced this month envisages the supply of up to 60,000 laptops over a four year period.

Haskew believes the deal is a particularly important moment because, as he told IT Channel Oxygen, it demonstrates “that a market wants to move towards sustainable IT – not a customer, but a whole market”.

As noted by the framework is the first of its kind in the EU and can be availed of by all public service bodies regardless of size.

Unlike refurbished laptops, remanufactured models have to meet the BSI Kitemark for ‘remanufacturing’, which is the process of returning a used product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent to or better than that of a newly manufactured product. As that suggests, this is quite an intensive process, with laptops broken down into their constituent parts, cleaned, tested, repainted etc. The BSI Kitemark standard requires that the process restore products to a like-new quality in performance and appearance.

Commenting on the deal, Minister for Public Expenditure NDP Delivery & Reform Paschal Donohoe said: “This is the first such framework to be established by a central purchasing body in the EU and offers significant environmental benefits, including carbon reduction and resource and water savings, as well as value for money.”

Typically, remanufactured laptops cost around 30% less than equivalent new models but as Donohoe notes, the savings are not just monetary – a good argument could be made that the savings in terms of CO2 emissions, water used and resources mined are even more significant.

It’s estimated that purchasing 60,000 remanufactured laptops could equate to a reduction of 19 million kilograms of CO2, 72 million kilograms of mined resource preservation and 11 billion litres of water not used. The CO2 saving is equivalent to taking 1,200 cars off the road for each year of the contract.

Ossian Smyth, Minister of State with responsibility for public procurement and circular economy, stressed that the framework “is a change from previous rules that advised always to buy new products. I’m delighted to see this progress”.

The fact public sector bodies have been authorised to acquire remanufactured machines is concrete evidence that they fully live up to the requirement that they provide like-new quality in performance and appearance.

It’s a vote of confidence that is likely to gain traction with other countries. Ireland is to be commended for taking the lead. Hopefully, others will follow and “a market” will become “markets”.

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