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It’s ‘Recycle Week’! ‘Let’s Get Real’ is the theme of Recycle week this year, but how well does the tech industry deal with redundant and end of life equipment?

Dealing with so called ‘e-waste’ is no small task. E-waste is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, and according to a 2019 UN report, the world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) a year. Only 20% of this is formally recycled. It is now estimated that by 2030 the global amount of e-waste will reach 74 million tonnes! According to TCO Certified (the world-leading sustainability certification for IT products), much of this e-waste is handled unsafely, causing pollution, human health hazards, and the loss of valuable finite resources.

So what is our industry doing to tackle this issue?

Vendors are leading the channel in the charge against e-waste by encouraging recycling. For example, Poly recognises the need to help to protect and preserve our environment by providing safe ways to dispose of electronic waste. Poly therefore set up a free “Takeback and Recycle Program” by partnering with AER Worldwide and RENE AG (Europe), who are specialists with “end of life” electronic products. This enables Poly to offer customers in all our major markets access to a worldwide network, and the capability to ‘recycle or refurbish and reuse’ their products where facilities exist, diverting from landfill and reducing the environmental impact.

Logitech too encourages recycling and state that their products and packaging have parts that can be recycled and used to make new items. They have partnered with recycling and e-waste collection centres across the world to make it easier for customers to recycle old products.

It’s not just e-waste that our industry produces, each product comes in packaging and many tech brands are now recognising the need to reduce packaging and in turn reduce waste. Brands such as EPOS and Yealink state that they are striving to reduce packaging waste.

The Geneva Environment Network states “Many initiatives are undertaken to tackle this growing concern [about e-waste], but none of them can be fully effective without the active role and correct education of consumers.”

Recycling isn’t enough

The Geneva Environment Network also highlights that while recycling goes some way to tackle environmental issues, every device ever produced has a carbon footprint and therefore contributes to human-made global warming.

When the carbon dioxide released over a device’s lifetime is considered, it predominantly occurs during production, before consumers buy a product. This makes lower carbon processes and inputs at the manufacturing stage (such as use of recycled raw materials) key determinants of overall environmental impact. Logitech recognise this, and by using recycled plastic in their production, they have eliminated an estimated 8,000 tons of virgin plastic, equating to an estimated 19,000 tons of CO2. In fact, Logitech claim that more than 65% of the mice and keyboards in their largest product portfolio are now made with recycled plastic.

More to do

More action is required to tackle the growing issue of e-waste. Logitech, for example, has stated: “As of 2021, all our products are carbon neutral” but they recognise that more needs to be done as evidenced by their follow up statement: “The world is facing unparalleled challenges from climate change and there’s an immediate need to reduce our impact even further and support climate-impacted communities and nature.”

Conclusion

We started this blog by asking how well the tech industry deals with redundant and end of life equipment? It is clear that in recent years progress has been made within our industry to tackle the issue of e-waste, but the amount of waste that is produced is still on an upwards trajectory. Changing production methods, reducing the reliance on virgin materials, refurbishing and reusing products, as well as recycling them when they are end of life will all help to tackle this concerning issue.

So in answer to our earlier question:

Has progress towards recycling been made? Yes.

Is there more to do? Absolutely.


References:
Geneva Environment Network. ‘The Growing Environmental Risk of E-Waste’ https://www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org/resources/updates/the-growing-environmental-risks-of-e-waste/

Intelligent HQ: The World’s Fastest Growing Waste Stream: E-waste In The Spotlight On International E-waste Day https://www.intelligenthq.com/worlds-fastest-growing-waste-stream-e-waste-spotlight-international-e-waste-day/

Logitech: Sustainability – Designing a Positive Future | Logitech

Poly: Environment | Poly, formerly Plantronics & Polycom

UN Environment Programme. ‘UN Report: Time to seize opportunity, tackle challenges of e-waste’ https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-report-time-seize-opportunity-tackle-challenge-e-waste

WRAP: ‘Recycle Week’ https://wrap.org.uk/taking-action/citizen-behaviour-change/recycle-now/recycle-week

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