GlaxoSmithKline sheds nearly 6 tons of e-waste

2009 Green 15: Drug firm reaps energy savings by unplugging and recycling unused IT gear

As is often the case at many organizations, employees at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) had come to simply accept the presence of abandoned IT equipment left powered on in offices and cubicles. That tendency had been going on for years, in fact, until Armin Jahromi, the company's regional service manager for IT user services, had had enough. It was time to orchestrate a top-to-bottom, environmentally responsible cleanup of all of the old IT gear in the company's Franklin Plaza site in Philadelphia.

The inspiration for the project was primarily driven by environmental considerations, Jahromi says. "With the world so technology-driven -- with mobile phones, desktops, laptops, monitors, printers, toner/ink cartridges, cables, CD and DVD media, USB drives, and so on being turned over at such a rapid pace -- landfills are increasing in size with these materials, some of which are toxic and some of which will never biodegrade. I believe we in the IT industry now have a social responsibility to reduce the volume of tech waste and the energy it consumes as much as possible."

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Both personal and business objectives played a part, too: "On a personal level, I hate to see waste -- whether at home or in the office," says Jahromi. "In the corporate environment, it is natural to see people come and go. Unfortunately in today's market, there are more people going than coming, and as a result, desktops and laptops that had been allocated are sitting idle -- some still powered on."

That's wasteful for two reasons, he notes: First, those unused devices powered on are wasting energy, which costs GSK money. Second, a number of these devices are technologically current and could be redeployed elsewhere.

So, 35 "e-cycle champions" at GSK volunteered to recruit people on their respective floors to participate and identify unused assets and serve as the liaisons between the user community and IT. "The rule of thumb we stressed to our users was 'If it hasn't been used within a year, get rid of it,'" says Jahromi.

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