As the world shifts towards a more sustainable future—reducing waste and creating positive impact—information technology (IT) should be at the forefront. Recent data from United Nations Report indicates that the IT industry produces over 50 million tons of e-waste each year, of which only 20% of this is recycled.
Kenya alone generates about 3,000 tons of e-waste each year—including computers, printers, networking devices, monitors, and other devices. However, lack of e-waste awareness, poor separation, and crooked disposal systems have e-waste mixed with ordinary waste in dumps.
Well, there’s potential for improvements through solutions such as the circular economy.
Implementing a circular economy in IT instead of relying on the wasteful and established linear system of product lifecycle can ensure maximum use of IT products, components, and materials.
Let’s dive into what a circular economy is, how it would benefit your organization, and how you, too, can take part in the sustainable framework.
What is the Circular IT Economy?
The circular IT economy is the new alternative to the traditional linear product lifecycle, where technology products were disposed of after use and replaced with new ones. The circular system builds on the principles of sustainable IT, also known as Green IT (minimizing the environmental impact of IT products and infrastructure) while considering social responsibility in manufacturing, use, management, and disposal of IT products.
Circular Economy in Practice
Extending IT Equipment Life Cycles
Part of the usual product ‘lifecycle’ is that products eventually reach their point of ‘planned obsolescence.’ This is the point the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) no longer produces or sells the product and will eventually discontinue support. This happens with all network and IT companies who are constantly updating their products and releasing new innovative features to enhance a bleeding edge of technology to organizations.
The end of a product life cycle may be necessitated by several other reasons such as market demand, products reaching maturity and need to be replaced by functionally richer technology, or technological innovation that drives changes to the product.
But here’s the mistake most IT and network dealers make; once a product reaches its end-of-life (EOL) or end of service life (EOSL) they immediately result in discarding. Alternatively, others wait until the item has surpassed its expected lifespan and is no longer functional. Both of these cases could be handled differently.
Once a piece of equipment reaches its EOL or EOSL, it does not necessarily mean it will fall off (or slow down) immediately, and you’ll be forced to abandon the product and move to the prescribed replacement. Rather, it means the end of OEM procurement, support, and updates. Even if you choose to abandon the product, this doesn’t mean the end of the use of it.
On the other hand, waiting for a piece of technology to outlive its intended use can cause more harm than it solves; it can be frustrating to work with and can create potential risks. The goal should be to use tech to the window at which it operates its absolute best and can be refurbished for reuse.
Rethinking your supply chains
With tech supply chains getting so complex, a circular economy provides seamless collaboration between IT service departments and customers. As complexities decrease, so do the costs. As a result, IT managers can easily offload their tech while reducing costs and better-utilizing budgets.
How Does the Circular Economy Address the Sustainability Problem for Your Businesses?
The circular IT economy’s goal is to discard nothing while simultaneously reducing the procurement of new equipment. Any production is achieved through renewable energy. With this system, discarding a perfectly functional IT or networking device simply because it’s a few years old or its end-of-life (EOL) has run out is not an option. Here products are designed to allow reusability.
The framework also empowers businesses and technology leaders to rethink their end-to-end product cycle—from manufacturer to the customer. The manufacturers understand that the customer plays a huge role in the implementation of circular IT; hence they foster long-term customer relationships with them. The best part is that the organizations mutually benefit from their own implementation of circular IT.
Primary Ways Circular Economy Benefits Your Organization
Scales Down IT Budgets
At present, IT and network managers are faced with the challenge of tighter budgets while extending and optimizing their network infrastructure. This challenge has necessitated the use of refurbished equipment as the best alternative to purchasing new equipment. Acquiring up-to-task refurbished equipment at a fraction of the cost of buying a new one is such a bargain. Besides, offloading used and unused technology to a ready market helps you scoop a better return on the hardware. These amounts could be used to upgrade your equipment to the latest technological innovation without sourcing for other budgets.
IT leaves an indelible mark on the environment due to carbon footprints. Apart from the e-waste, data centres around the world are expected to consume approximately 3 percent of the world’s electricity in the next decade. With such statistics, every enterprise is under increasing pressure to reduce e-waste and manage energy consumption as new technology emerges by taking part in the circular economy.
IT companies must turn to a reliable secondary market organization for assistance in managing these challenges. This involves reducing the energy and space used by IT centres and waste created, using renewable energy, and following environmentally friendly practices during disposal.
Enhances Corporate Responsibility
Taking part in the circular economy sets apart companies looking for alternative paths to give back to communities, which increases their chances of competing in the economy. Circular IT provides a tangible solution to the corporate sustainability issue at hand through easy access to quality, refurbished original equipment manufacturer (OEM) networking equipment. This reduces energy consumption in production and e-waste generation.
How Can You Adopt Circular IT in Your Business?
Now, you may be asking how you can adopt a circular IT economy in your business. The answer; mainly by extending your IT life cycle.
Here’s how you can do that:
While business hardware ages faster—even as quickly as new technology comes into play—it’s essential that you know when it’s time to replace your old devices. The usability of your IT devices will depend on several factors, such as how long your business has had it, the kind of tech it is, how the company uses it, your business IT parameters, and how often you maintain it.
As a general rule, every telecom and IT department should aim at replacing equipment every couple of years (traditionally 3-5 years). Some hardware will last longer, but by putting formal replacement procedures, you save your business’s productivity hurdles that come from outdated equipment.
To extend your equipment’s life cycle, it’s advisable to replace your IT equipment for various other reasons such as growth within your organization that makes infrastructure fail to completely meet your needs, software changes that require an upgrade of the hardware, or you just want to stay on top of your productivity with new equipment.
When considering refreshing the network equipment, disposing of isn’t an option. Apart from the environmental impact and security concerns of company information that comes with discarding, you fail to recoup the initial investment used to purchase the equipment.
Knowing what to do in such a situation can avoid needless purchase of new equipment. The best course of action would be to get in touch with companies in the circular economy such as RefHub that can help you manage and extend your companies’ hardware lifecycle and reduce long-term costs.
By adopting a circular economy, you will also access expert recommendations on refurbished IT product alternatives, some sourced directly from original equipment manufacturers.
So, if you have early model equipment that you consider obsolete (or one you want to upgrade from), don’t write it off, yet. The product can still be a very competent choice for other businesses and can fulfill their basic needs. You, on the other hand, can scoop an immense budget saving to purchase your new equipment.
To remain globally competitive in Tech, Kenya has to adopt sustainability in IT through enterprises and organizations. This not only impacts efficiency in IT but the environmental impact in general. However, for a circular IT economy to work, IT managers must view sustainable IT as a priority and tool to the wider sustainability agenda.
While it may be challenging (at first) for businesses to adopt these changes, the circular economy model enables new opportunities in IT infrastructure, energy, and production. The enterprises that extend the life of existing products or who purchase refurbished equipment will have a massive advantage.
At RefHub, we are making circular IT a viable choice for companies and organizations to effectively manage their IT equipment life cycles and reduce the cost of doing business.