Dell recycles Park's PCs

Dell will recycle the National Park Service's old computer systems at no cost.

Employees from Dell’s Asset Recovery Service will pick up more than 2,000 outdated workstations from the service and wipe out the hard drives, company officials said today.

"One of the real advantages for us is that we have 388 parks and 50 to 60 other offices spread throughout the country. Some of the parks are in very remote locations," said Dom Nessi, chief information officer at NPS. "This agreement with Dell has been a godsend for the parks. It gets [the PCs] off the books and [NPS] back online."

NPS has an inventory of about 24,000 PCs, so the initiative eventually will grow beyond recycling 2,000 computers. W. Hord Tipton, the Interior Department's chief information officer, has encouraged all department offices to work with Dell on a similar partnership, Nessi said.

Previously, NPS, a division of Interior, depended on internal processes to store, donate or auction computers.

"We were spending lots of time coordinating the disposal of our outdated computers, which was difficult to manage, provided little return on investment and caused concern about where they were ending up," Nessi said.

Usually, Dell charges the government $25 per CPU, monitor or laptop computer and returns 90 percent of the electronics' secondary market value back to the government. But NPS is not paying upfront fees because Dell will keep the value recovered from equipment to offset the cost of service.

Nessi said that NPS will continue to use Dell’s service, as long as Dell remains Interior’s primary vendor.

The federal government disposes of 10,000 computers a week, in addition to fax machines, printers, copiers, wireless phones and handheld devices. Some of this equipment winds up in landfills or overseas, where environmental standards are generally lower. Experts say that the mishandling of electronics waste releases toxins such as lead, mercury, chromium, cadmium and beryllium into the environment.

Despite environmentalists' support for mandated e-cycling, some critics of government regulation argue that laws for e-cycling and eco-friendly disposal would stifle innovation and force vendors to pass on the costs to customers.

Environmental Protection Agency officials say the electronics waste issue is an important challenge for now and the future, but it is not a crisis.

Nuclear disposal

Officials in the small Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board benefited last year from a similar PC recycling program.

They had more than 130 outdated computer components that were crowding the agency's 100 employees. When the office filled up, officials tried donating the used computers to local schools, but many educators only wanted new equipment.

The cost came to about $500 for all services. Board officials paid Dell about $5,000 upfront to recycle 100 workstations and several printers, fax machines and servers. In return, the agency got a detailed inventory spreadsheet, documenting items down to the serial number, and a credit for $4,415.

Since 2003, officials from the military, all 50 states, intelligence agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency have used the service.

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