A report published earlier this year claimed that, globally, 50 million metric tons of IT equipment is wasted every year.
The research coincided with Circular Electronics Day, which is designed to encourage IT buyers and sellers to reuse equipment, rather than throw it on the scrap heap in favour of shiny, new devices.
But is there money to be made for the channel in second-hand and remanufactured equipment?
According to Steve Haskew, strategic commercial manager at Circular Computing, the channel is ignoring a potentially fruitful business opportunity by not tapping into its customers' sustainability targets.
Circular Computing is a laptop remanufacturer, meaning it takes in redundant units from its customers, breaks them down to the raw components and rebuilds them, before selling them back into customers via the channel.
The laptops aren't rebuilt to the same specifications - instead they are turbo-charged with improved memory and hard drives and made to order, meaning that an organisation can order hundreds of remanufactured machines of an identical specification.
The benefits of the model are far reaching, Haskew explained, transcending environmental, ethical and financial issues.
Speaking to CRN, he picked out three key issues that are mitigated by circular IT:
1. Natural resources
Firstly, the planet contains only so much of the minerals needed to create the components in computers.
The strain on natural resources is already being seen, with the price of memory being hiked over recent months.
"At a mineral level it's not sustainable," Haskew said. "There is only 100 per cent of something and no one knows how much 100 per cent is.
"The value of these minerals is going to go up and it's going to put a pricing pressure on technology; we're seeing that happen with things like memory and SSD already.
"It's not necessarily down to a call on the demand of the finished stock, it's the minerals that actually make the finished stock. It's the brokers that sit behind the factories controlling the price of the minerals."
2. Ethical supply chain
Second is the murky world of components supply chains.
Great lengths have been taken over recent years to shut down the supply chains controlled by warlords in African countries, which dominate the earth's reserves of minerals needed for the manufacturing of components.
Cobalt, for example, is a mineral used to create batteries which sees over half of its global supply come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Washington DC-based not-for-profit organisation The Enough Project was set up in 2007 to clamp down on crimes against humanity, such as genocide and slavery, which are heavily linked to the mining industry across Africa.
The Enough Project publishes reports naming and shaming tech firms that are not doing enough to generate conflict-free supply chains in the DRC.
Last year Apple was scored as making the most progress, while Sony, Samsung and Toshiba were deemed not to be making enough progress.
Incidentally, Apple was last week reportedly close to agreeing a deal that will see it buy Cobolt directly from the mines.
The US' Dodd-Frank Act, which was signed into US law by President Obama in 2010, has also been credited with starting to address the issue. The act makes it compulsory for tech companies to disclose their supply chain for certain minerals sourced in Africa.
"The ethical supply chain of getting things to the user is bent," Haskew said. "It's not just laptops, it's things like clothing as well, but in a laptop there might be cobalt and this comes in the main from the DRC, which is a military state.
"Remanufacturing takes care of that because we don't call on the minerals that are used - we're using something that's been made."
Thirdly, and perhaps most widely publicised in the tech arena, is the vast amount of waste generated through the disposal of old devices.
Research published in January claimed that 50 million metric tonnes of IT products are discarded every year.
Circular Computing carried out research with the UN University and found that 150,000 laptops are discarded every day in the EU alone.
Circular Computing itself can remanufacture around 500,000 devices a year, Haskew said, and he claims its products see only a three per cent reduction in performance when compared with new products.
The devices come with a three-year warranty and Circular Computing offers to take them back at the end of the cycle to remanufacture them again.
"If you add all those things up, it becomes a no-brainer from a corporate point of view," Haskew said. "If the computer can perform toe to toe against a new computer then why wouldn't you consider this, as the most ethical and sustainable product?"
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