Sustainability and the electronics industry – How to contribute to a greener future
When it comes to sustainability in electronics, it’s becoming increasingly clear that simply recycling is not enough.
At 3-5% growth every year, electrical waste (EWaste) is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU. And according to the European Commission, by 2020 the volume of electrical and electronic equipment waste will increase to 12 million tonnes every year.
The figures are staggering. That’s why it’s vital that we work together to look after the environment and formulate product development strategies that tackle the issue.
How sustainable are traditional circuit technologies?
Traditional PCB (printed circuit board) and PCA (printed circuit assembly) technology is predominately based around thermoset resin boards and copper conductors.
At the moment, there are no circular (cradle to grave) strategies available for these technologies. What’s more, recycling is restricted to the shredding and subsequent (high temperature) reclamation of only the precious metals.
This equates to less than 1% recyclability of PCBs, and 3-5% of PCAs.
What factors should you consider if you want to make your electronics more sustainable?
To increase sustainability, you need to consider the entire concept and design phase and supply chain, including
- Green supply chain strategies
- Product specifications embracing technologies that reduce environmental impact
- Product manufacturing processes that minimise energy usage
- End-of-life recyclability with minimum cost and impact to the surrounding environment
How does In2tec work to make electronics greener?
With over 10 years at the forefront of sustainable flexible electronics, we’ve developed innovative design strategies and used them to revolutionise the recyclability of the electronic circuit assembly manufacture process. We’ve achieved this by:
- Considering the circular economy
- Increasing the ease and efficiency of recycling components and substrate layers
In2tec’s approach is to use an additive conductive print and component placement process – in conjunction with specialist adhesives and substrates – to provide an unzippable product. This product can be broken down into its constituent parts (substrates, conductors, components) through the use of simple catalysts.
Working with our partners, GEM and the National Physics Laboratory (NPL), we’ve registered the process, ReUse, and it has been granted a European Patent.
ReUse is changing the face of sustainability in electronics with up to 95% recyclable assemblies
The ReUse process and material development is now on its second stage, with production level samples having gone through full validation and testing via NPL.
This development constitutes a paradigm shift in the thinking around how to create a circular economy in the electronics industry. Sample products have been produced, and all components un-zipped and then re-used on another separate and different sample product.
We’re able to manufacture printed circuit assemblies that will provide around 95% recyclability. A huge achievement, when you consider that today’s technologies provide around 3 to 5% recyclability.
In2tec continues to strive for more sustainability in electronics
In2tec was nominated for the prodigious Business Green Leaders Awards in 2015. We’re up there with the likes of Toshiba, Jaguar Land Rover, The Carbon Trust, O2, Ikea and GENeco when it comes to our commitment to protecting and enhancing the natural environment, as society and industry develop.
As consumers, we’ve visualised how important it is to recycle. Many of us try to reuse our plastic bags or purchase a bag for life. Just think about the level of increase of non-degradable electronics that we are going to have to bury. Any step towards a technology that minimises this is one that we must strive to make happen.
Looking for ways to improve your sustainability credentials and leverage technology to achieve a competitive advantage? Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org