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Why E-waste & Electronics Need a New Circular Vision?
E-waste: The Environmental Problem.
The problem of e-waste is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. With the growing popularity of electronic devices, the amount of e-waste being generated is increasing at an alarming rate.
E-waste can contain precious metals such as gold, copper and nickel, as well as rare materials of strategic value such as indium and palladium. Many of these metals could be recovered, recycled and used as secondary raw materials for new products. However, the challenge lies in the incredible complexity of doing so; one product can be composed of more than 1,000 different substances.
Up to 60 elements from the periodic table can be found in complex electronic products, such as smartphones. This makes the recycling of e-waste a very complex and difficult task. In fact, it often contains hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury. These substances can leach into the environment and cause serious pollution problems.
In landfills, e-waste can represent up to 70% of hazardous waste. This is a huge environmental problem that needs to be addressed urgently.
E-waste management is an employment opportunity.
Every year we produce more and more e-waste – according to the Global Consumer Electronics Market Will Reach USD 1,787 Billion, the consumer electronics market is growing at a rate of USD 1.7 trillion – and much of it ends up in landfill.
But what if we could change the way we think about electronics? What if we could create a circular economy for electronics, where products are designed to be reused and recycled?
The time has come to adopt a new vision for electronics. A vision that takes into account the entire life cycle of a product, from manufacturing to end-of-life, and that prioritises reuse and recycling over disposal.
A comprehensive solution is needed to tackle the problem of e-waste. We need a new circular vision of electronics, where products are designed to be disassembled and recycled, and where e-waste is seen as a valuable resource. But did you know that e-waste has great economic value? Materials such as gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium can be found in e-waste, and there can be 100 times more gold in a tonne of smartphones than in a tonne of gold.
With the smartphone market booming – 1.46 billion units were sold in 2017 alone – a huge amount of value enters the market every year. In fact, each smartphone contains more than $100 worth of electrical components. So, what can be done with this valuable e-waste? These resources need to be put to better use, and recycling e-waste can be an excellent way to extract these valuable materials.
E-waste is a valuable resource in the circular economy, and e-waste entrepreneurs and cooperatives are playing an important role in expanding e-waste recycling operations and experimenting with new business models to manage e-waste effectively. These initiatives have already generated thousands of decent jobs for former informal workers in the e-waste value chain. With the right policy mix and access to finance, these approaches could be expanded and scaled up, generating additional jobs for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of workers in the circular economy.
Only by working together on a global scale can we tackle this problem effectively. It is time for a global reset on e-waste.
A new circular vision of electronics is needed, one that takes into account the entire life cycle of devices. This means designing products that can be easily repaired, reused and recycled, and ensuring that e-waste is properly managed.
This global reboot will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including manufacturers, retailers, consumers and governments. But it is essential if we are to build a more sustainable future, and it is time we made the change.