New life for old IT equipment

Max Morgan, from our Information Services team, describes what we do and who benefits when we reuse or recycle our old IT equipment.

Being at the forefront of information technology (IT) is crucial for National Grid. It means regularly upgrading systems to make sure they can handle the challenges of our changing business.

When our IT equipment comes to the end of its useful life, we want to dispose of it in a responsible way. We have three goals: to make sure we don’t harm the environment; to secure our data; and, to benefit the communities where we work.

In the first eight months of 2017, working with a recycling specialist, we were successful in reusing or recycling more than 4,600 pieces of IT equipment. Nothing ended up as landfill. This work cost us almost nothing but allowed us to make donations valued at more than £11,000 to charities and schools.

Circular economy

We reuse a lot of IT equipment internally; e.g. to equip new starters or to test the latest business applications. It’s part of our ‘circular economy’ approach. For example, we recognise that the best way to reuse a laptop is to continue using it as a laptop, perhaps for a different job. Maintaining equipment for as long as is feasible means we buy less new IT equipment, which reduces the environmental impacts associated with building and transporting it.  

Our specialist recycling partner collects surplus equipment from us, such as PCs, laptops and mobile phones. Some items they clean and refurbish, some they dismantle – salvaging reusable components such as circuit boards and hard disks. They break down the rest into raw materials, including precious metals.

Nothing is wasted. Even the packaging we wrap around our old IT equipment is used again.

Metal, plastic and even glass from the IT equipment can be put to further use. The money generated by selling these materials pays for our donations to local charities or schools.

This year, we’ve helped hospices and charities dedicated to healthcare, conservation and astronomy, among others, in both the UK and US. Typical of their response was this note from the manager of a healthcare organisation: “Having the laptops was a great help,” she wrote. “The fact that they work well and quickly really made a difference to being able to get things done.” A hospice chief executive added that National Grid’s donation of new and refurbished tablets “...will help us to work more efficiently and effectively... We greatly appreciate the support you have given us.”

Responsible disposal of assets

We chose our recycling partner after a competitive tender. We discovered through this process that there are many approaches to recycling, not all of which are acceptable to us. For example, one involves dumping equipment abroad in countries where health and safety standards are not as strict.

Our partner, however, can meet all our requirements for the responsible disposal of our assets.