The mountain of unwanted electrical goods is rising rapidly, but now companies are thinking up ways to make use of discarded technology.
PCs to be buffed up and sold on, to cut waste and give a little back to charity
One such enterprising outfit is the day-old company Key-Computers. It plans to sell a range of refurbished machines, donated by corporate firms and government bodies.
"Many consumers don't know where to turn when looking for PC equipment, and consequently end up spending vast amounts of money on a machine that is far too powerful for their needs," said Stuart Robb, company director, Key-Computers.
He believes refurbished machines are the answer to both recycling needs and a means to make computers and the internet available to those on a tight budget.
The imminent introduction of the WEEE (Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment) Directive means manufacturers will need to pull their socks up to meet the new recycling requirements.
Under the terms of the WEEE directive, which should come into force by 2004, manufacturers, resellers and producers will be responsible for the safe disposal of consumers' old electrical goods or face hefty fines.
This is where companies like Key-Computers can help out. It has already sold around 1,000 discarded PCs by word-of-mouth, even before its scheme was officially launched yesterday.
"We were part of a direct marketing company and saw the potential in refurbished PCs," said Stuart Robb, company director. "New entry-level PCs are getting cheaper but they are not even comparable to the prices of these machines."
An entry-level PC from Key-Computers, sporting Windows 95 with Pentium 233MHz processor, 64MB of RAM, sound card, speakers, keyboard and mouse, will set you back a modest £199.99.
All machines are supplied with a one-year warranty and, in keeping with the spirit of environmental friendliness, 10 percent of the Key-Computer's annual profit will be given to good causes.
Under a programme launched today called Foneback, the mobile phone industry is also doing its bit to safely dispose of the 15 million handsets discarded each year in the UK.
The scheme, a collaboration between the four big phone operators and the government, will recycle all old handsets and send them on to developing countries or break them down for parts.
Charity Oxfam has also installed drop-off bins for old phones throughout all of its stores. It will use all money raised for 'charitable purposes'.
Currently only 10 percent of the UK's disused electrical equipment is recycled.