Unveiling the Circular Economy: A Pathway to Sustainable E-waste Management
A key component of managing electronic waste (e-waste) is the adoption of circular economy principles. Organizations in the United States and worldwide as well as governmental agencies must make great efforts to reduce e-waste, and the circular economy model provides an example of how that can be achieved.
Why is e-waste such a noxious problem and how bad is it? Of all the growing waste streams worldwide, e-waste poses unique challenges due to the hazardous components and rare earth metals contained in modern electronics that can leach into ground soils and pollute the environment. Mitigating e-waste therefore requires solutions such as circular economy principles and careful selection of IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) partners committed to environmental stewardship.
The Growing E-Waste Problem
E-waste is surging in the US and worldwide. According to the United Nations, e-waste generation has grown tremendously by 21% over five years leading up to 2019 to an estimated 53.6 Mt (approx. 59.08 million US tons). Furthermore, per capita e-waste in the United States generation was estimated to be around 21 kg (46.30 pounds) in 2019. E-waste is on the course to becoming the world’s fastest-growing waste stream, all other things held equal.
It’s for these reasons that mitigating e-waste is necessary. Modern electronics, when disposed of improperly, can pose numerous threats to humans, pollute aquifers, ground soils and the air, and wreak havoc on wildlife. To make matters worse many American organizations have been accused of shipping e-waste abroad to countries such as China, India, Ghana and Nigeria where little to no precautions are made for handling the waste.
What is the Circular Economy?
Whereas the old-fashioned linear economy relies on a model of “take, make, waste,” the circular economy instead strives to minimize waste and to maximize the lifespan of products and materials by recycling, re-using, refurbishing, or otherwise integrating parts and components back into production.
The circular economy model has been around since the 1960s but has since grown to prominence in many industries such as furniture and textile manufacturing, to name a few examples. Electronics are a prime example of where the circular economy can be applied with great success.
Case Studies in E-waste Management with Circular Economy Principles
E-waste management and the circular economy go hand in hand for many organizations in the United States. Indeed, the US has many businesses that have proactively integrated the circular economy with e-waste management such as Dell and Apple.
For many years, Dell has been leading the way with sustainable packaging, a 1:1 product takeback scheme, and an effort to surpass 50% sustainable materials in all new products by 2030. Dell has fully embraced the circular economy and strives to accelerate its adoption.
Tech supergiant Apple has also embraced the circular economy with its Apple 2030 initiative which seeks to reuse and recover products and materials while also improving sustainability for manufacturing and shipping. By 2030, Apple intends to be fully carbon neutral with regards to product manufacturing, no small feat.
The Role of ITAD in the Circular Economy
Dealing with the environmental impact of e-waste requires a concerted effort using effective solutions. ITAD helps to facilitate e-waste management because it most efficiently allocates resources to minimize needless waste while simultaneously maximizing the potential ROI on redundant IT assets. This is done through ITAD solutions including e-waste recycling, refurbishment and remarketing.
Wisetek is a leading global provider of ITAD solutions with a strong commitment to minimizing e-waste through our environmental policy as well as initiatives such as a Zero-Landfill Policy and our own internal Sustainable Earth initiatives. Our circular economy model reduces e-waste by opting for refurbishment and remarketing of usable IT assets whenever possible, only resorting to e-waste recycling for assets that cannot feasibly be refurbished. All refurbished assets are then sold through the Wisetek Market, thereby lengthening their usable lifespan while providing customers with great value and clients with superb ROI on IT assets.
Furthermore, all IT assets undergo thorough data destruction to safeguard clients’ sensitive data and minimize data breaches. Our data destruction techniques include hard drive shredding and degaussing.
Key Sustainable E-waste Management Steps
To partially or fully embrace circular economy principles, organizations can follow these steps:
- Reduce obsolescence by designing products that last
- Allow for (and promote) the ability to repair products, e.g. the Right to Repair movement
- Responsibly manage e-waste by providing product take-back programs
- Use recycled materials for packaging and shipping
- Provide resources to customers to reduce e-waste
- Work with a reputable electronics recycler and an ITAD partner such as Wisetek
Some or all these steps may apply to your organization, depending on the type of operations, but adopting some (at a minimum) can greatly reduce needless e-waste.
ITAD and the Circular Economy
The circular economy model has gained traction across multiple industries, reducing waste and prolonging the lifespan of products and materials in the process. Since modern businesses depend on IT assets in just about every industry, e-waste management is therefore essential and the circular economy is therefore applicable to almost all businesses today.
Not all electronics recyclers use a circular economy model, however, which is why choosing a reputable ITAD provider such as Wisetek is essential. Our circular economy principles reduce e-waste, maximize ROI on IT assets, and benefit the environment in the process.
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