Why should we care about e-waste?
Complying with electronics sustainability regulations can be seen as a burden both financially and physically. So, why should we care about e-waste and its impacts?
For one, the huge humanitarian and environmental issues it brings up. There is increasing international legislation attempting to tackle the issue, for example the Basel Convention looks at preventing the import of e-waste to ‘dumping grounds’ in developing countries. Despite this, e-waste is still illegally imported into countries, where illegitimate recycling companies use ineffective burning and shredding techniques to recycle the waste. This practice is often carried out by employees who put their health at risk by burning electronics without any protection or safety measures. Not to mention that imported e-waste can end up improperly disposed of and sits in landfill where the materials pollute the soil and water supply of the local area. This severely affects the local population of the dumping area in these developing countries. The fact of the matter is, no-one can continue to ignore the e-waste problem, not consumers, manufacturers nor government organisations.
The other, maybe more commercial, reason is that consumers are more likely to spend money on your brand if they believe that your brand ‘cares’. A study conducted by Havas has found that brands which are seen to contribute to ‘collective well-being’ and do more for society as a whole have a 46% higher share of wallet than a company who does not. Working to reduce e-waste and contribute to a circular economy can therefore appeal to consumers who are becoming more and more concerned with how their electronics are disposed.
A great example of this is the smartphone market. A 2010 EPA study estimated that 350,000 mobile phones are disposed of everyday. Despite this, Greenpeace found that over half of the surveyed consumers want manufacturers to release fewer phone models and do more to enable the recycling of old smartphones.
When it comes to sustainability and smartphones, look no further than Apple and Samsung, two of the biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world. Apple has recently released its Liam robot to combat the difficulty recycling companies have when disassembling iPhones. In the process, it created a huge media buzz both around the subject in general, and the robot itself. Apple was keen to show off Liam at its spring product launch and numerous publications wrote about the robot, which Apple touted as being ‘unlike anything seen before’. It created an interesting rhetoric that to invest in an Apple product was to support sustainability while purchasing a cheaper smartphone would result in it going to landfill and contributing to the e-waste problem as a consumer. All of this publicity was for a robot which can only disassemble the iPhone 6 model, a limited solution which wouldn’t truly tackle e-waste.
Samsung on the other hand, has received sustainability certifications for many of their smartphones, including the Galaxy S range. It even won the EPA Sustainable Materials Management Champion Award for the Galaxy S6 for making it 99% recyclable.
With the two of the biggest powerhouses in electronics showing such progress when it comes to e-waste reduction, it’s clear to see that working towards reducing e-waste is worthwhile both ethically and commercially. It adds value to consumers and gets companies ahead of the curve.
Sustainability has always been a focus for In2tec, our tagline is ‘Inspiring Sustainable Technology’ for a reason. From Iflex to ReUse, our electronics solutions can give your products the sustainability necessary to make a difference.