Technology & Innovation

Recycling IT

October 08, 2007


October 08, 2007

Anonymous Writer
Contributor, The Economist Intelligence Unit


UPS, a parcel delivery specialist, is using its advanced online logistics technology to help the organisation and its customers manage the recycling of their waste. “It’s about making the most of the work the company does,” says Graham Nugent, the company’s regions applications manager. “We want to provide recycling to our customers and provide an effective returns policy that grows out of the popularity of the web.”

The delivery firm helps its customers dispose of unwanted electronics through an asset recovery and recycling management service, which uses UPS’s supply chain technology to provide an enhanced logistics service. “The return service helps us get to waste technology,” says Mr Nugent. “Sensible destruction is really important, as is the re-use of components.”

Mr Nugent says that another bespoke website helps UPS technical staff to decide whether computer equipment should be repaired or recycled. In the UK, the company has initiated a recycling programme and if a PC is still usable it is sent to a charitable organisation. The scale of this operation is growing steadily: UPS recycled 2.7mlb of electronic equipment from its own operations in 2006—and a total of 19.7m lb since 2000.

“We’ve used IT to analyse the way we conduct business to ensure we operate as efficiently as possible,” adds Mr Nugent. “Originally, such analysis was important in helping the company to save money - now it’s to help save the environment.” Perhaps surprisingly, some believe the US to be ahead of the game when it comes to recycling. Cormac McCarthy, IT directorfor Ben Sherman, a fashion brand, agrees that firms across the Atlantic are light years ahead of European organisations when it comes to technology waste and recycling. “American firms will increasingly only invest in a business if it has an environmentally responsible strategy in place, so you’ll start to see more green auditing and companies establishing an awareness of their carbon footprint.”

Mr McCarthy says Ben Sherman, which is owned by Oxford Industries, a US clothing manufacturer, has been quick to introduce a range of environmentally responsible strategies. For example, waste cardboard packaging that cannot be reused or recycled is offset by planting replacement trees. And office renovations worldwide now include energy-efficient computers and lighting.

Other green policies have developed in a more ad hoc nature. While employees have been recycling paper and toner in individual offices for many years, this reprocessing has not been part of a wider business strategy until more recently. “Now recycling has become the de facto standard for the company around the globe and we are more environmentally aware,” confirms Mr McCarthy.

But even more needs to be done in other areas of the organisation, especially with regard to energy efficiency and computer facilities being left on at night. Mr McCarthy expects a key individual to be made responsible for the global environmental impact of Ben Sherman during the next 6-12months. And with green computing set to dominate the business agenda, he hopes to be considered for the role. “It’s like Y2K again, except this time green is a concept that really is a significant issue.”

Receive forward-looking perspectives from our editors - Subscribe now for our Weekly Digest