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Sustainability: ZF computers’ second life

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Instead of simply scrapping discarded but working PCs, they are collected at ZF, refurbished by a specialist service provider and sold again. With this reuse of discarded technology ZF acts sustainable and saves valuable raw materials.
Frank Thoma, August 07, 2020
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Frank Thoma has been corporate editor at ZF since 2011. With a degree in journalism, he has been planning, writing and editing articles for all of the company’s internal, external media.
There is no doubt that life is becoming increasingly digital and thus more comfortable. Every day, each of us uses a wide variety of electronic devices: PCs, tablets and smartphones are a natural part of our professional and private lives. At ZF, too, working without these devices is of course unthinkable. These information technology tools are regularly renewed.This guarantees high performance and reliability. But what happens to the old, still functional, devices after a replacement? We have looked into this question and can answer it here. This much in advance: At ZF, these devices and their accessories are not electronic scrap that is simply disposed of.

Electronic scrap: a severe problem

Electronic scrap: a severe problem

Phased out electronic equipment - often referred to as electronic waste - and how to deal with it is one of the major, pressing environmental issues of our time. As the authors of the recently published "Global E-Waste Monitor 2020" have determined, last year alone 53.6 million tons of electronic waste were generated worldwide. That is the weight of around 350 large cruise ships. The "Global E-Waste Monitor 2020", is a joint effort by several organizations, including those of the United Nations. It is also sponsored by the World Health Organization and the German Ministry for Development Aid.

Recycling instead of throwing away

Recycling instead of throwing away

Instead of simply discarding functioning devices and thus increasing the already enormous mountain of waste further, ZF is taking a different approach with its obsolete IT technology. As early as three years ago, the decision was made to return every old PC to the manufacturer Lenovo. In fact, they are collected by a refurbishing service provider. Refurbishing means that used equipment is overhauled and checked in a quality-assured process and resold at an attractive price.
Last year, ZF has bought circa 37,000 PCs; the average amount bought is around 30,000 per year. About 10,000 computers and 2,000 monitors were returned over the same period. Hardware such as docking stations, printers, computer mice, and keyboards are also included in the recycling.
Employees at the refurbishing service provider check all components of the delivered devices and clean the computers.

IT recycling at ZF: How it works

IT recycling at ZF: How it works

When new equipment is delivered, IT staff takes the decommissioned equipment with them to forward it to the manufacturer. This has been the case worldwide since last year. "ZF has committed itself to returning the IT equipment; in that return, we receive a discount on the new equipment," says Gerhard Schauer. At ZF he is responsible for the IT workplace infrastructure. He and his colleagues are currently working on including 80 percent of ZF‘s locations in the program.
At the end of their lifecycles, all locations worldwide send their used equipment to the recycling company Tier1Asset in Denmark, Lenovo's contractual partner. After the incoming inspection, employees clean the devices and test all components. The devices are then classified into different quality categories.
Once a new operating system has been installed, the computers are resold. Hakan Budak, managing director of Tier1Asset, explains: "We expect the product lifetime to be extended by another seven years. We can refurbish around 90 percent of the delivered devices." And what happens to the remaining 10 percent? At least 90 percent of it can be recycled again. Recycling means the dismantling and separation of components and raw materials such as gold, lead, cadmium or plastic. All in all, the IT equipment achieves a recycling and reuse rate of 99 percent.
In this video you will find more information on computer reconditioning and recycling.
Employees at the refurbishing service provider check all components of the delivered devices and clean the computers.