Collected, disposed and processed: Sustainable Award for ITS

On 22 September 2022, UU's Information and Technology Services (ITS) received the Sustainable Award for the sustainable disposal of IT hardware in 2021. Within the UU, IT equipment is written off after a number of years. Since 2021, UU has been using a new processing system for obsolete IT hardware. In the old situation, laptops, mobile phones and monitors were collected and destroyed in a straight forward manner. Since 2021 these devices are collected, disposed of and processed in a sustainable way, all across the UU. The new procedure fits well within the ambitions of UU's strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability. This prompted a conversation with product manager of the new procedure Rob Iseger and implementers of the Beta pilot Chun Lai and Don Bouwman.

'Look, this is just my job and that's what I get paid for,' Rob Iseger is modest when he starts talking about the new procedure. However, with extensive - and personally tracked - data, he can tell exactly how much equipment has been sustainably processed in 2021. The new procedure has saved 690,000 tons of CO2 emissions in 2021.

Safer and more social

The disposal of IT goods is a regular part of the IT Hardware procurement process. Since 2021, Argo360 has been the new processor and the procedure around the disposal of goods has thus been completely overhauled. The new procedure focuses on safety, sustainability and preventing data leaks. Chun Lai: 'The whole process has been made safer, more local and sustainable. Moreover, Argo360 employs people with a distance to the labour market.' Rob Iseger adds: 'So the whole process has been made sustainable and social'.

The whole process has been made safer, more local and sustainable

Chun Lai

Security has been beefed up with the new procedure. For example, the processing of obsolete hardware is administratively monitored from start to finish and all hardware is stored securely. Don Bouwman: 'If your laptop breaks down, it goes into a locked container that only reopens at the processing site. So there is no third-party interference'.

Residual value

Once the equipment arrives at the processing site, first of all, all data is removed. Then it is determined whether the equipment will be given a second life. If that is not the case, some parts of the hardware can be recovered. Whatever remains is recycled in raw materials. Finally, every device has a residual value, this residual value is hoarded and used to finance sustainable initiatives in and around Utrecht University.

 'So the whole processing process has taken on a sustainable and social character'.

The Sustainable Award presented is about the year 2021. Iseger: 'But in this year we have already processed more hardware up to October than over the whole of 2021. Until October 2022, we disposed of 3,400 devices. Among others, 1,200 computers, 800 monitors, 400 laptops and about 100 phones. Converted into raw materials, that includes 400 kg of copper, 186 kg of aluminium and 2,400 kg of steel. We have saved 1 million CO2 emissions so far in 2022. That's already a quarter more than in 2021.'

How many old mobile phones do you still have at home?

A campaign will soon be launched for all Utrecht University staff and students. Everyone can drop off their personal devices at a central point on campus. Old phones, laptops, monitors etc. Iseger: 'Basically all old hardware that is just gathering dust at home'.

Argo360 will process the equipment and UU will donate the residual value of the hardware to Stichting Leergeld Utrecht. A foundation that stands up for children in Utrecht who are struggling. Keep an eye on the intranet for more information about the action.