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“A second life for IT hardware”

Interview with Marco Kuhn from bb-net

“A second life for IT hardware”

What happens to old hardware once it’s reached the end of its life cycle?

According to a United Nations (UN) report, about 50m tonnes of e-waste are thrown away every year, but only 20% of it is recycled. International studies show that reusing IT equipment is urgently needed. If we don’t take action, global e-waste will accumulate to 120m tonnes by 2050. This type of waste not only pollutes our environment but also endangers the health of many people worldwide. 

Studies show that without relevant measures, e-waste will continue to increase considerably in the decades to come. Source: UNU, 2018; OECD, 2018; WEF_A_New_Circular_Vision_for_Electronics.pdf (weforum.org)

Reusing instead of just discarding

Companies like bb-net have made it their mission to put an end to this alarming trend by refurbishing and repairing old IT equipment according to set quality standards so it can be reused and remarketed. As one of the largest IT refurbishers in Europe it has been an active participant in the circular economy for over 25 years.

The family-owned company has prioritised the environment, giving more than 100,000 tech devices a second chance at life every year. By reusing IT hardware, over 20m kilograms of CO2 were saved in 2020 alone, i.e. around the same amount that would have otherwise been caused in new production.

Refurbishing and bb-net

You can find bb-net's sustainable product catalogue along with more company information on unite.eu.

We spoke to Marco Kuhn, Head of IT Remarketing Sales at bb-net, about the benefits and importance of IT refurbishing and how the market’s reacting to it.

Mr Kuhn, how can companies benefit from IT refurbishing?

The issue of sustainability has been at the forefront of our minds for several years now at bb-net. We believe in the added value of a circular economy and wanted to find a way to contribute to it. That’s why we’re all the more excited that many companies and public organisations have come to recognise the importance of sustainable product life cycles and green procurement. By having their worn-out hardware refurbished, they’re not only helping the environment and living up to their social responsibility, but they’re also benefiting from additional capital that they can then use to purchase necessary new devices. For the purchasing department, refurbished IT hardware is also a cost-effective alternative to new tech equipment.

Marco Kuhn, bb-net

Many people simply don’t know that refurbished IT hardware completely fulfils the state-of-the-art requirements for performance, warranty and quality. But like with many things, we’re seeing a gradual mindset shift when it comes to refurbishment. It’s steadily becoming more popular and accepted.

Marco Kuhn, Head of IT Remarketing Sales at bb-net

Why are companies and public institutions still reluctant to use this service?

They need more education and standards to be able to let go of their reservations about second-hand hardware, particularly in a professional environment. Many people simply don’t know that refurbished IT hardware completely fulfils the state-of-the-art requirements for performance, warranty and quality. But like with many things, we’re seeing a gradual mindset shift when it comes to refurbishment. It’s steadily becoming more popular and accepted.

What type of market changes have you noticed since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Covid-19 has led to global supply shortages in the IT sector, as it has in most industries. When there was no new equipment to come by, companies and public institutions increasingly turned to second-hand equipment. Ultimately, people’s positive experiences with refurbished laptops, screens and servers meant that they were more willing to accept “green” alternatives. In the medium term, however, supply bottlenecks in the new goods sector are also causing shortages in the second-hand market as well as higher prices in comparison. We’re seeing long delivery times for components as well, but we’re confident that the situation will ease up soon.

What can manufacturers consider in the product design stage?

A big first step is to manufacture new products from recycled materials. This reduces the amount of plastic waste and negative impact on the environment. Leading IT manufacturers such as HP, Dell or Microsoft already recycle plastics from the sea– and turn them into new laptop casings or computer mice. 

Another important factor in product design is to construct the devices in a modular way. Framework laptops are a prime example of this, where every component is easily accessible. The individual components are screwed together rather than glued, and everything is designed for longevity. This will allow you to fully repair, enhance and bring the devices up to date with the latest technology standards. All of these factors play a crucial role in enabling IT devices to be fed into a sustainable circular economy once they’ve completed their first life cycle.

Why did you decide to work with Unite?

At bb-net, we’d already had good experiences with the B2B marketplace Mercateo. That’s why really pleased that the new Unite brand and the Sustainable Choice initiative will give us even more opportunities to offer our services to an even larger customer base. We especially appreciate the fact that Unite has a strong focus on sustainability. As a platform, Unite also fulfils all aspects that matter to our customers when it comes to e-procurement – above all: sustainable purchasing.

Thank you very much for today’s interview, Mr Kuhn.