New scheme stops e-waste being dumped on developing countries

March 26, 2009

CFS and partners Digital Links and Midex Reverse Technologies have pioneered the innovative recycling programme in response to the growing e-waste problem in the developing world from computers donated by overseas businesses. 

Redundant computers from many British companies end up in countries in Africa as well as India and Pakistan, helping to improve opportunities for some of the world’s poorest people. However, these countries do not possess the necessary recycling capabilities to dispose of the computers, meaning many of the hazardous parts are left to pollute the environment, posing a health risk to local communities.

The scheme will see 3,500 defunct computers and computer components arrive by ship in Felixstowe today after leaving Nairobi three weeks ago.  The load will then be transported for safe recycling to Midex in Surrey.

Jon Marchant, Director of IS Operations at CFS, said: “We are urging businesses to take more responsibility for their used computers to stop unknowingly dumping e-waste on the developing world.”

“This initiative shows that an innovative and responsible approach can help stop the growing e-waste problem in developing countries which do not have the complex infrastructure to handle it. Through its operations, CFS is committed to reducing its impact on the environment and helping the sustainable development of communities.”

Mrs. Aissatou Sow, Chief Executive of Digital Links, said “Refurbished computers have a vital role to play in providing affordable access to information technology for schools and communities in developing countries.

“However, when they reach the end of their useful life they can become an environmental hazard. Digital Links is developing a closed-loop system to reuse computers in schools in the developing world and then, when they are no longer useful, collect them for proper recycling.” Going forward, Digital Links hopes to establish a sustainable recycling solution by helping to develop the infrastructure and expertise necessary to encourage entrepreneurs across Africa to enter in to this profitable business.“

When a computer comes to its end of life, approximately 3 to 10 kgs of heavy metals, including gold, copper and aluminium, cannot be recycled locally, and due to the value of these metals local people often risk their health and that of the local community to extract them.

With the levels of e-waste in developing countries expected to treble over the next five years, CFS and Digital Links are strenuously working together to help reduce the problems of hazardous e-waste pollution in developing countries.

The original machines were dismantled by CfSK in Kenya and a proportion of materials recycled locally. The motherboards could not be recycled in Kenya and are being transported to UK environmental recycler Midex Reverse Technologies. The material will then be de-bulked and broken down into components parts. The plastic is set aside for a specialist recycler whilst the remaining waste is shredded to less than 25mm.  Ferrous material, iron and steel will be extracted using an over-band magnet and stored in one tonne bags before being returned to the manufacturing chain.

According to Chris Spooner, Managing Director of Midex: “There are some losses in the smelt process but up to 90 % of the material can be returned to the manufacturing chain, and in this particular cycle there is zero landfill.” The entire process can be viewed online through Midex’s web cam.
Digital Links is providing a virtuous cycle for companies in the UK to extend the life of their IT equipment (reducing their carbon footprint), improve educational and business opportunities in the developing world, and take full care of their environmental responsibilities.



Notes to editors:



The Co-operative Financial Services is part of The Co-operative Group, which is the world’s largest consumer co-operative with over 3 million members. CFS currently has 5.5m customers and employs over 8,000 staff. It has 116 retail and corporate branches/centres and over 1,000 face to face financial advisers. It has £38bn of assets under management across its retail and corporate business areas.

The Co-operative Car Insurance offsets 20 per cent of its customers C02 emissions by investing in projects like rainforest reforestation, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. It also makes sure that its repairers reuse and recycle materials like old body panels and plastic parts wherever possible.


Digital Links

Digital Links was established in 2002 in response to the increasing digital and knowledge divide between developed and developing nations. Through close partnerships with global corporations, Digital Links offers a range of technology solutions for developing countries to build thriving knowledge economies.

DL has over 6 years of experience distributing more than 65,000 computers to schools and community projects in the developing world providing over one and a half million young people with their first access to IT.  DL operates a strict environmental policy sending computers with at least 2-5 years of life remaining and working to establish end-of-life recycling infrastructure in Africa.


Notes for editors

  • To create just one desktop PC uses 1.8 tons of raw materials including 250 kilograms of fossil fuels.
  • Every PC diverted from landfill provides incredible opportunities for those currently lacking access to even the most basic ICT.
  • Once the infrastructure has been developed, recycling operations can be both profitable and environmentally sustainable.
  • Midex offers a complete range of dedicated solutions for computer disposal, computer recycling and computer waste in accordance with the WEEE directive and regulations


For further information contact:  

Jenna Beever
The Co-operative Financial Services Press Office
Tel: 0161 903 3831
Fax: 0161 903 2751
E-mail :