Responsible recycling thanks to green technology

The Life: Akhdar, an IT recycling company, will help recycle used gadgets from the IT and telecom sectors from its Jebel Ali factory.

Philip Hughes says the private sector is more engaged than the public sector in IT gadget recycling. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Philip Hughes is the former chief executive of Akhdar, which he and his three partners sold to Sims Recycling Solutions, based in the United Kingdom. The 54-year-old came to the UAE from the UK in 1993, and is the managing director for Sims in the Middle East. Based in Jebel Ali, the company recycles and re-markets gadgets from the IT and telecoms sectors.

What was the role of Akhdar? What does it mean?

We started Akhdar in 2008. It means 'green' in Arabic. Around 2000 and 2001, when I was with the American Power Conversion, some of our colleagues kept talking about 'green IT' and recycling, but no one knew what it entailed. Akhdar was a project created to study the market and eventually recycle IT equipment. Akhdar started shipping products from Dubai late 2010. We acted as a collection and sorting point in Dubai and then dispatched products to the Sims factories in Europe under our partnership agreement. Second, safe and secure data transfer [from old hardware].

Your factory in Jebel Ali opened in May. What is its function?

If a computer is working, the most green solution is to refurbish them and make them available to the right market through the right channel. If the client gives us the asset we refurbish it, sell it and return a percentage of the sales value to the client. If the asset cannot be worked upon or resold, we break them down into metal, plastic etc, for the clients and recycle them. We send the circuit back to the parent company Sims in the UK, and they extract precious metals for re-use. Sims came on board in December 2011. For one hard drive, a client can get between US$7 [Dh25] and $20. In case of data destruction, all a client wants is a piece of paper that can be produced in the court. We have 10 partners. They act as resellers for our services in different countries across the Middle East.

What do companies do now with their IT hardware?

They tend to put computers in a cupboard, delete files and give it to the staff.

Why is recycling important in the IT sector?

Companies use a piece of equipment for three years and get a new one after that. What happens to the old one? Equipment in banks and in the airline industry have customer details. There were two problems that the market required to solve. One, ethical recycling where you track where the asset has gone. That it has gone safely to a factory fully approved to worldwide standards and got rid of safely, and not ended up in a souq in Sharjah or has created environmental damage in a landfill in a country not your own.

Who do you see, the private or the Government sector being more engaged in IT gadget recycling?

Today, it is the private sector because the public sector does not have the experience of doing recycling that multinational companies have because they were already recycling in Europe and elsewhere.