Three questions and answers: Why is new hardware always disastrous for the climate?

Three questions and answers: Why is new hardware always disastrous for the climate?

Whether laptop or server – new hardware costs money and is often not immediately available. A cheap alternative is usually a refurbished device from the Refurbisher. In an interview, Karsten Schischke and Tim Schürmann explain what companies need to look out for when buying a used vehicle.

Karsten Schischke heads the Product Ecodesign and Circular Materials group at Fraunhofer IZM, supports the EU Commission in the eco-design of mobile devices, assesses the life cycle assessments of large IT companies and coordinates a working group on environmental legislation.

Tim Schürmann has a degree in computer science and works as a freelance author and IT journalist.

A new laptop every four years, a new smartphone every two years – the latest technology advances digitization and makes employees happy. But why is IT equipment that is always up-to-date too important for many companies?

Karsten: Technologically, the devices are so mature that such frequent replacement hardly offers greater efficiency gains in everyday work. Just because this has been done in the past, and this practice may well have been justified in the past, does not mean it has to stay that way. In any case, from the point of view of the climate balance, such fleet management is disastrous. And the legislator is also working on a European level to improve the framework conditions for a longer service life without loss of performance.

Hardly any company in this country wants to be seen as an environmental polluter. But what speaks against simply regularly recycling the devices and replacing them with more powerful ones?

Karsten: Recycling is good and important for recycling raw materials, but it destroys considerable values, especially in the IT area, also from an ecological point of view: In particular, the energy invested in production cannot be recovered by recycling, no matter how good. Reuse should be the priority here: Short usage cycles are perfectly justifiable if the devices are given a second use in the consumer market after the data has been deleted, or are offered to their own employees for private use – and only then are properly recycled a few years later.

Refurbishers are now a dime a dozen. What do companies have to pay attention to if they want to buy used equipment specifically for professional use?

Tim: First of all, the origin of the devices: some refurbishers also buy hardware that is not certified or suitable for corporate use. Furthermore, one should specify in advance which requirements the devices must meet. Finally, a look at the support period and the support services is necessary.

The preparation is almost identical for all refurbishers. For example, all companies erase the data carriers using established procedures and meticulously clean the housing. Differences result primarily from different services. So you can’t buy spare parts from some refurbishers, while others even expand the cameras in notebooks at the customer’s request.

Thank you for your answers, Karsten and Tim. More information about notebooks, office PCs, servers, storage or networks from the Refurbisher can be found in the title spread of the current iX 8/2022 and at heise+.

In the “Three Questions and Answers” series, iX wants to get to the heart of today’s IT challenges – whether it’s the user’s point of view in front of the PC, the manager’s point of view or the everyday life of an administrator. Do you have suggestions from your daily practice or that of your users? Whose tips on which topic would you like to read in a nutshell? Then please write to us or leave a comment in the forum.

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