Donated computers come back to UK for safe recycling

Computers gifted to developing countries by Co-operative Financial Services are being returned to the UK for safe recycling.

CFS is the first British company to participate in the programme in response to the growing e-waste problem in the developing world from computers donated by overseas businesses.

Redundant computers from many companies end up in countries in Africa as well as India and Pakistan, helping to improve opportunities for some of the world’s poorest people. However, these countries do not possess the necessary recycling capabilities to dispose of the computers, meaning many of the hazardous parts are left to pollute the environment, posing a health risk to local communities.

The scheme has so far seen 3,500 defunct computers and components arrive by ship in Felixstowe after leaving Nairobi at the beginning of March. The load was then transported for safe recycling to Midex in Surrey.

Jon Marchant, Director of Information Systems Operations at CFS, said: “We are urging businesses to take responsibility for their used computers to stop unknowingly dumping e-waste on the developing world.

“This initiative shows that an innovative and responsible approach can help stop the growing e-waste problem in developing countries which do not have the complex infrastructure to handle it. Through its operations, CFS is committed to reducing its impact on the environment and helping the sustainable development of communities.”

When a computer comes to its end of life, approximately three to 10 kgs of heavy metals, including gold, copper and aluminium, cannot be recycled locally, and due to the value of these metals local people often risk their health and that of the community to extract them.

With the levels of e-waste in developing countries expected to treble over the next five years, CFS and computer aid charity Digital Links are working together to help reduce the problems of hazardous e-waste pollution in developing countries.

The original machines were dismantled in Kenya and a proportion of materials recycled locally. The motherboards could not be recycled in Kenya and are being transported to UK environmental recycler Midex Reverse Technologies.

The material will then be de-bulked and broken down into components parts. The plastic is set aside for a specialist recycler whilst the remaining waste is shredded to less than 25mm. Ferrous material, iron and steel will be extracted using an over-band magnet and stored in one tonne bags before being returned to the manufacturing chain.

In this article

Join the Conversation