29 Jun 2021

N2S: Applying innovative technology to support the public sector in decarbonising its services

N2S is committed to ensuring that IT equipment is integrated within the circular economy in two main ways – by encouraging resale and reuse – and by creating innovative, environmentally purposive processes for extracting critical raw material (CRM) from redundant technology.  

Both are a strong fit for further enhancing public-sector service delivery. And we understand the  sector, having worked closely with government clients.  

However, we believe that our new technology will be particularly important, for helping public-sector organisations meet their net carbon-reduction goals, in a sustainable way.  

People want to see public-sector organisations lead by example, reduce waste and become ‘greener’. These organisations want that too. And we can support them, with innovative solutions. 

Not everyone is aware just how big a problem electronic equipment waste (e-waste) is. A massive 50m tonnes or so is generated globally every year. In counties where there are no producer responsibility regimes, it is dumped in landfill or burned, releasing harmful toxins.  

Around $50bn of gold and silver is used to manufacture new devices each year, yet $10bn of precious metals is lost each year in e-waste. Up to 7 % of the world’s gold may currently lie in e-waste.  

Much of this is contained within printed circuit boards (PCBs), which are found in nearly all electronic equipment. Increasingly, e-waste will also contain a battery, which in turn presents fire risks if not handled properly. Also, these products are manufactured with up to 40 metals, including gold and copper.  

Recycling PCBs typically has a large carbon footprint, as they tend to travel to refineries in Europe.

DELIVERING A SOLUTION  

Recognising that there must be a far more environmentally friendly approach, we saw an opportunity to address these issues, while simultaneously recovering the valuable materials.  That process includes bioleaching, where we breed bacteria to extract gold, copper and other rare metals from PCBs.  

To progress this, we partnered with Coventry University, enabling us to collaborate with experts in the field.  Our work has been funded through a government initiative, the Knowledge Transfer Partnership.  N2S is also a member of and supported by the DEFRA e-Sustainabity Alliance (DeSA), a group of academics and government and industry leaders focused on developing global solutions in support of UN sustainable development goals.  

As a professional sportsman in my previous working life, I never imagined that I would be hiring scientists in my next career, and this will continue, to meet demand.  Since lockdown, we’ve opened a second office, in London, and have increased our headcount by 20% in warehousing and logistics.   

Resale and reuse of technology and the materials in them continues to be key for helping the public sector achieve its net carbon-reduction goals. During the pandemic, we were able to show just how speedily a small to medium sized business can move, to get technology to some of the UK’s biggest public-sector organisations – and, of course, a high-quality, refurbished, remanufactured product is just as good as new, and far better for the environment.  

We always advocate the greenest possible solution − for logistics, the handling of data and security, and equipment disposal.   

The truth is, from a disposal and recycling point of view,  and for the good of the planet, we can do much more to manage our wastes locally, safely and responsibly. 


This article was written by Andrew Gomarsall Executive Chairman, N2S. Prior to running as Executive Chairman at N2S, Andrew is well known for his former years as a professional England rugby union player, winning the World Cup in 2003 and was later awarded an MBE for services to rugby in 2004. Our vision is to be the sustainable IT company, our clients not wasting any hardware, forming a connected & trusted supply chain, whether Workplace, UC, Data Centre or Networking transformations providing Installation, Decommissioning, excess stock purchase, trade in's & Recycling. Read more...

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