Reducing IT waste can be your business too

Photo of Brett Hyde founding director of Buyequip

Case study: Buyequip

Brett Hyde, founding director of Buyequip, certainly practices what he preaches. The waste-conscious company that specialises in reusing and recycling information technology (IT) equipment runs its entire operation with second-hand computers (including the server). In fact, even the office kitchen was found discarded on the street.

Starting out in 2001 as a small-scale retail operation selling ex-corporate and ex-government computers, Buyequip is now a big deal. In 2011 they won a Premier's Sustainability Award, and were a finalist again in 2013. Brett estimates that they're currently reusing 500t of IT equipment per year, and recycling 200t.

While Buyequip has some big-name clients, they also deal with a lot of small businesses looking for a financial return on their end-of-use equipment. 'If a business has more than 20 items that are less than 3 or 4 years old, then we'd generally pay a rebate for their equipment,' Brett said.

Buyequip then finds reuse opportunities for the end-of-use equipment that they collect. Brett believes older equipment is a great option for start-up businesses, and perfect to maintain existing IT hardware. 'A 4-year-old computer with a small LCD monitor might no longer be suitable for the applications of one business, but is perfectly capable of handling email, internet and accounting programs in another,' Brett said.

Buyequip's waste management services help reduce the amount of IT equipment that ends up in landfill, as many businesses simply 'throw it out' when they upgrade. 'A motherboard, for instance, contains mercury, cadmium - all sorts of things that you don't want leeching into the environment ... these elements can leech into the soil, and also, importantly, the water. So when electronic equipment is recycled properly, there's no escape to the environment for those things. And most electronic waste can actually be recycled,' Brett said.

By reusing and recycling your IT equipment, and buying second-hand goods, small businesses can help delay the need for new computers to be built. 'There's a tremendous amount of energy involved - and about 1500L of water involved - in making a new PC. If you step it back and [look at] how much material has to be mined to actually produce the precious metals, it's really incredible,' Brett said.

As well as prioritising environmental considerations, one of Buyequip's business values is 'to treat all with generosity, equality and respect'. This is evident in the partnership they have established with BoysTown to help dismantle some of the IT equipment they receive. This partnership gives marginalised people the chance to acquire new skills and experience.

Their ethos also extends abroad: many computers that Buyequip flag for reuse end up going to schools and universities in underprivileged countries like Tanzania and Papua New Guinea, who couldn't otherwise afford brand new equipment.

Brett's vision is for Buyequip to be an environmentally- and socially-conscious business that delights its employees, partners, suppliers and customers. 'I want a business that others fall in love with, and I love coming to work for,' Brett said.

With all the good things Buyequip are doing, it's easy to see how you could fall in love with them.

Brett's tips for being a sustainable business

  1. Use second-hand equipment. In addition to searching eBay and Gumtree, there are companies that resell all kinds of goods - not just IT - including pallets, office and warehouse equipment, and furniture.
  2. Recycle your end-of-use equipment.
  3. Do your own internal environmental audit. Work out what your environmental impacts are (including waste, energy and water use), how you're going to deal with them, and then monitor your strategies to make sure they're effective.

Also consider...