Unveiling the Circular Economy: A Pathway to Sustainable E-waste Management
Circular economy principles are essential for the sustainable management of electronic waste (e-waste) and all efforts must be made by individuals, organisations, and governmental agencies to reduce e-waste globally.
The rapid growth of e-waste year over year and the hazardous components found in modern electronics poses a double-pronged threat to the environment that requires innovative solutions. IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) and circular economy principles for IT asset lifecycle management are therefore a must for any organisation to play an active role in mitigating e-waste generation.
The E-Waste Epidemic
E-waste is amongst the fastest-growing streams of waste globally, reported at around 53.6 Mt as of 2019. It’s estimated that 16.2 kg of e-waste are generated per capita in Europe, and the total amount of e-waste generated globally is only expected to increase up to around 74 Mt by 2030, paribus ceteris. Without intervention, e-waste is on track to become the fastest-growing domestic waste stream.
Given that modern electronics pose numerous environmental and health hazards when disposed of improperly, the potential consequences of e-waste proliferating to such figures can be severe indeed. Many European nations have already come under rightfully harsh media criticism for shipping e-waste to the infamous Agbogbloshie dump site located in Ghana, causing numerous health problems to workers (including child labourers).
The Circular Economy Explained
The circular economy is a system in which products and materials are retained within the economy for as long as possible through recycling, re-use, refurbishment or other incentives designed to minimise waste. This differs drastically from ‘linear economy’ models, whereby “take, make, waste” is the norm.
Whereas circular economy models have had varying amounts of success in industries such as textiles and furniture manufacturing, they are particularly needed for electronics to safely and efficiently manage the rapidly growing generation of e-waste worldwide.
Case Studies in Circular E-waste Management
E-waste management has been proven to be highly compatible with circular economy models in Ireland and elsewhere in the EU and UK. For example, WEEE Ireland has been a leading advocate for sustainable e-waste management in Ireland through awareness campaigns and retailer initiatives such as the WEEE Ireland resources for retailers. From 2017-2022, 225,000 tonnes of e-waste have been diverted.
WEEE Ireland has put forward a five-year plan, its own circular economy strategy, which includes the development of documentation for repair and reuse programmes, the establishment of financial stability metrics for e-waste circular economies, and much more.
In the UK, Recolight has demonstrated tremendous efforts at strengthening the circular economy for WEEE collection through conferences and initiatives to collect and safely dispose of lights. Since 2007, Recolight claims to have facilitated the responsible recycling of over 325 million lamps, LEDs, and luminaries.
ITAD’s Role in the Circular Economy
The environmental impact of e-waste is a current problem that requires immediate solutions. ITAD can facilitate e-waste management by minimising e-waste and by efficiently allocating IT assets depending on their condition, including refurbishment and remarketing for useable devices and electronics recycling for those that cannot be reused.
Wisetek is committed to a Sustainable Earth through initiatives such as a Zero-Landfill Policy and a commitment to an environmental policy that embraces a circular economy model and minimises needless e-waste. Redundant IT assets from organisations still in useable condition may be refurbished and remarketed through our e-commerce platform Wisetek Store, thereby maximising the lifespan on IT assets whilst also maximising ROI on redundant assets.
Through secure hard drive destruction methods such as hard drive shredding, organisations also benefit from data destruction that minimises the risk of data breaches as well as minimised e-waste generation.
Steps Towards Sustainable E-waste Management
Organisations can take practical steps towards adopting partial or full circular economy principles for e-waste management. Some examples include:
- Design products for longevity and reduce obsolescence
- Permit and promote repairability of products
- Provide take-back programmes to responsibly manage e-waste
- Take advantage of recycled materials, e.g. packaging
- Inform consumers of steps they can take to participate in reducing e-waste
- Partner with reputable organisations and choose ITAD partners such as Wisetek
Depending on the type of operations, businesses dealing with e-waste can adopt one or (better) more of the above steps to reduce e-waste.
The Circular Economy and ITAD
Whereas the circular economy has gained favour in many industries, just about all businesses in the modern, digitised business world generate e-waste. Reducing e-waste and reusing devices through refurbishment are therefore necessary for businesses to achieve more sustainable practices.
Although not all electronics recyclers operate a full circular economy model, ITAD providers such as Wisetek do. The circular economy model adopted by Wisetek strives to minimise needless e-waste and to maximise the ROI for clients through refurbishment and remarketing of redundant IT assets.
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