Bonn The company AfB repairs used laptops and monitors for resale. This saves a lot of resources. Deutsche Telekom alone gave over 20,000 used devices to AfB last year.
Around 124 million old mobile phones and 32 million used laptops could be lying around in German households. This was the conclusion reached by the industry association Bitkom in two surveys conducted in 2019. According to the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (Nabu), more than one million tonnes of old electrical appliances are discarded every year in Germany - this is roughly the weight of 100 Eiffel Towers. E-waste places a heavy burden on the climate and environment, and the amount of waste has been increasing for several years. The non-profit IT company AfB, based in Ettlingen near Karlsruhe, recycles old equipment, and upgrades it for reselling. Companies from Bonn also collaborate with AfB and make their old appliances available for reprocessing.
Just over 20,000 used devices were handed over to the company by Deutsche Telekom last year. “Laptops, standalone PCs and monitors account for the largest share. Occasionally we also hand over printers,” explains Melanie Kubin-Hardewig, Head of Sustainability at Telekom. For several years now, the Bonn-based company has had its old appliances collected by AfB - last year, this happened almost weekly. Although Telekom also works with other processing companies, the cooperation with AfB was significantly expanded in 2020. “The company manages to combine both social and green elements. That’s a very comprehensive view of the sustainability issue,” says Kubin-Hardewig.
For 15 years, the inclusion company has been taking on old electrical equipment, particularly laptops and monitors, from companies, universities and regional councils, among others. The fast-growing company tests up to 500 devices per day. In 2018, AfB had 377 employees, but today it already has 500, according to Sina Grimm, who is responsible for corporate communications. The number of IT and mobile devices processed by AfB is also increasing. In 2018, the company received around 360,000 devices; in 2020 it was 472,000. “When the equipment arrives, we first take care of data deletion. This is of course very important for many companies. Then we look at which devices are suitable for reprocessing and which are not,” explains Grimm.
Prices are up to 40 percent cheaper than new goods
AfB is able to resell about 68 per cent of the equipment. Following data deletion, the company cleans the devices, checks the battery performance, monitor and other functions and installs an up-to-date operating system. The devices are then ready for sale in one of the AfB stores or in the online shop. “Our customers are mainly private individuals such as trainees or students. Some of them are also small businesses,” Grimm reports. In terms of price, the devices are up to 40 per cent cheaper than new goods. According to Grimm, the life cycle of smartphones and laptops can often be doubled by AfB reprocessing. "If a smartphone has been in initial use for two years, for example, it can often continue to be used for another two to three years after our processing," says Grimm. However, the service life heavily depends on the type of use.
But what happens to the devices - around a third of them - that cannot be recycled? “Some laptops are so damaged that we cannot repair them. After data deletion, they therefore go to our recycling warehouse,” says Grimm. There, the employees disassemble the electronics into their individual components. These in turn go to another factory, where the raw materials are extracted and reused.
300 million litres of water saved
AfB saves many resources through its remarketing: “Every purchase from us saves the production of a new laptop. After all, any new production is very bad for the environment,” Grimm explains. Last year, for example, the company avoided the consumption of 300 million litres of water (about 1.6 million filled bathtubs). According to AfB, in 2020 it saved as much energy as 71,000 two-person households would consume. In addition, 43,200 tonnes of CO2 equivalents were saved - this corresponds to the consumption of about 20,570 round-trip flights from Berlin to New York. The company has already received several awards for its social-ecological business model. Most recently, AfB received the German Sustainability Award 2021 from the foundation of the same name, which works with the German government, among others.