The potential economic opportunities associated with the recovery of materials are also responsible for the advent of informal markets in developing countries not equipped to process used and end-of-use computers efficiently and safely for workers’ health and the environment. From an economic perspective, informal material recovery processors lose significant amounts of metals that could be more effectively recovered through the use of existing state-of-the-art technologies. More importantly, these informal markets employ recycling and materials recovery techniques that expose workers and the environment to potentially harmful pollutants.
The second-hand market
In developing countries, refurbished computers from the second-hand market provide opportunities for people who cannot afford to buy new equipment. Growing demand for refurbished equipment in these countries is matched by the need for spare parts for maintenance and computer repair. Recycling businesses can provide repaired and refurbished computers to this rapidly growing market at affordable prices.
The growth in the price of raw material
A local recycling business may also profit from the sale of components and recovered materials to facilities equipped to provide environmentally sound recycling. The rise of raw material prices has made recycling used computer components an economically viable enterprise for environmentally sound facilities, creating a market for properly disassembled components and scrap parts. This can be a profitable alternative for entrepreneurs, while preventing harmful practices such as dumping, open burning and incineration.
Benefits of setting up local recycling companies
Local businesses interested in computer recycling and reuse can play an important role in local and national authorities’ efforts to manage used and end-of-use PCs and related equipment in an environmentally sound manner. These businesses may protect against possible leaching of harmful materials and prevent unsafe practices common to the informal market. Businesses that repair, refurbish and upgrade PCs and related equipment for reuse provide the market with good products at affordable prices, thus bridging the digital divide. Finally, businesses can take advantage of valuable raw materials contained in PCs by extracting them in an environmentally sound manner, or if not possible, by selling certain materials to facilities that can do so properly. Governments can regulate formal businesses better under this process and ensure that movements of waste are properly monitored and controlled.
As local communities continue to access technology, more recyclable material will become available locally. Opportunities exist, and will grow over time, for local businesses to take advantage of the value contained in used and end-of-use PCs and related equipment. This guide provides a suggested blueprint for creating such a business, and for doing so in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner in conformity with national and international laws and regulations.