Headlines: May 17th, 2010

Local authority chief executives and other senior figures in the public and private sectors are being asked to take more seriously the disposal of their IT equipment. After a television documentary showed children in Ghana risking their lives to get scrap from dumped computers, Remploy e-cycle is urging senior decision-makers to ensure they know exactly where their old computer equipment is being sent.

The programme, which showed boys as young as five trying to salvage metal they could sell for as little as 5p. Some of the dumped equipment was marked with the names of Wandsworth Borough Council, Westminster College, the University of Surrey, South Hampstead High School and West Yorkshire Police.

Chris Sutton, the general sales manager of Remploy e-cycle, which specialises in the refurbishment and recycling of IT and telecommunications equipment on behalf of public sector and private clients, said it was time to end this method of computer disposal. “While there is still a question over how these computers ended up in Africa, it is probably reasonable to assume the equipment has been processed by one or more UK-based waste disposal companies which the organisations in question believed operated responsibly,” he added.

The companies, he said, should be traced and made to pay for their dangerous practices. “Directors and chief executives need to be taking this issue seriously by ensuring their IT equipment is either refurbished, if it can be used again, or disposed of responsibly if it’s reached the end of its useful life,” Mr. Sutton added. The computers, he said, might also still contain sensitive data which could be recovered, putting many UK people’s personal information at risk of being exploited.