NEC considers PC refresh move

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Japanese computer hardware maker NEC is mulling a possible extension of its PC refresh program to Australia.

Japanese computer hardware maker NEC is mulling a possible extension of its PC refresh program to Australia.

Brendan McManus, executive advisor at NEC Australia, said the vendor was considering bringing the PC refresh program here.

NEC had a refreshed PC business in Japan. NEC bought NEC-brand PCs back from users to resell after checking and cleaning, McManus said.

"It's only really in Japan [at the moment], but we're being asked in Japan what are we going to do," he said.

The PC refresh program was one element of several NEC environmental initiatives. NEC also planted trees each year on South Australia's Kangaroo Island as part of the Japan PC refresh program, McManus said.

"We're going to plant out 3000 hectares over 10 years that will then remain afforested for the following 10 years. We believe that will save some one million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the 20 years. That's an ongoing program," he said.

Eucalyptus or acacia trees would be planted for each PC that NEC bought back between 1 April and 31 July 2005. An estimated 100kg of carbon dioxide was emitted with each new PC manufactured, McManus said.

Planting a number of trees corresponding to the number of refreshed PCs that NEC bought back might therefore help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, McManus said.

While Australia has various community-based computer recycling programs, there are few commercial operations by the IT industry itself. Used electronic equipment contains hazardous waste that must be disposed of carefully, according to the Federal Government's Department of the Environment and Heritage.

Computer waste has been exported in massive shipments to countries including China, Thailand and India for recycling or dumping. However, China and Thailand, for instance, have recently stopped accepting such waste, forcing countries like Australia to seek other means of disposal.

Around 80 percent of computer equipment sold in Australia may end up as landfill. Some 141,000m3 of landfill airspace per year will be taken up by computers by 2011, the department has predicted.

McManus said the government should act to regulate the problem. Without government action, computer sellers and makers would be unlikely to adopt more environmentally-friendly practices.

PC recycling was further behind than similar initiatives for mobile phones and consumer electronics, such as TV sets, he added.

"We're also looking at another part of [NEC's environmental] program, taking lead out of the solder, saving some 250 tonnes of lead every year by using a new metal concoction to solder components," he said. "And also by using biodegradable plastics, not petroplastics."

NEC was also working to reduce PC power consumption, McManus said.

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