Electronic waste (more commonly known as e-waste) is becoming an increasing problem in today’s society. Many consumers want to get the latest and greatest gadgets as soon as they are available. This is good news for electronics manufacturers, but it means that buyers often throw out old products before getting new ones.
Manufacturers are also increasing their commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs. Leading electronics OEMs are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and emphasizing sustainability, and minimizing waste is a key factor for both.
Electronics manufacturers can significantly reduce e-waste by reusing electronics and improving their supply chains by prioritizing recycled materials where possible. Here are some specific strategies and emerging options.
Learn about current issues with e-waste
E-waste has received a lot of media attention as a growing problem, but it’s important to be clear that recycling electronics is also problematic. A recent study on this process in Bangladesh found that people in charge of recycling electronics exposed him to toxins such as heavy metals and organic chemicals for an average of 7.5 hours a day. Another identified problem is the lack of formal recycling facilities. As a result, many people work in ill-equipped environments without the necessary protective equipment.
There is no easy way to solve these problems. A possible solution, however, is to use materials that degrade quickly. Then they don’t stay in recycling plants for months or years, leaking toxic substances into the environment and harming nearby workers.
Build a smartwatch that breaks your team
Researchers recently took a big step forward in enabling manufacturers to create tiny electronics that eventually dissolve. They designed his two-metal nanocomposites for circuits that decompose when immersed in water. The team then proceeded to build a functional smartwatch that tracks various physical characteristics of the wearer. Perhaps most impressively, he collapsed 40 minutes after the device was submerged in water. But it survived the sweat.
It will be some time before such solutions become mainstream. It may not be viable outside of a lab environment. What’s more, it would be even better if researchers could find ways to reuse the materials that are eventually decomposed. Hmm.
However, electronic engineers and manufacturers should at least be open to using materials that degrade rapidly instead of years. That way, the supply chain will be more sustainable and those responsible for recycling e-waste will face less risk associated with their jobs.
Set goals for reuse and recycling of electronics
Too often, it’s too easy for electronics brands to promise to reuse and recycle more materials without setting clear goals. But when that happens, business leaders can lose sight of what matters. A practical way to avoid this pitfall is to develop progressive plans that allow companies to use new materials in their electronic products.
Decision makers can also stay motivated by considering all the benefits associated with material reuse. For example, new aluminum costs almost twice as much as recycled aluminum. Recycling more will almost certainly require some process changes, but should pay off over time.
Apple has set a corporate record by using nearly 20% recycled materials in its products in 2021. Next, specifically aluminum, his 59% of the total metal used in Apple’s products comes from recycled sources. The brand uses various recycling robots to increase the number of materials recovered during its efforts. Not all businesses have such resources, but setting recycling and reuse goals is worthwhile.
That way, everyone in the electronics manufacturing plant can remain accountable for achieving common goals on this issue. It’s understandable that things don’t go as expected right away. But electronics companies must remain open-minded and ready to learn from experience. You can then share your account with individuals from other companies with similar interests.
Recycling electronics to extend their life is not good for the planet. For example, Colorado organizations against domestic violence receive revenue when residents choose to recycle their electronic devices through specific channels. The money is then used to help those in need of domestic violence-related assistance. Other programs offer former incarcerated people the opportunity to work as electronics recyclers. These examples demonstrate the often far-reaching impact of reusing and recycling electronics.
By prioritizing increased sustainability through recycling, electronics manufacturers can get better results by focusing on exactly what they want to achieve. Doing so makes it easier to persuade corporate decision makers to invest in new equipment, process changes, employee training, or other necessities to ease the transition. .
Some electronics professionals may set their sights on specific ends after receiving specific funding. In one case, a team at West Virginia University received a grant from the US Department of Defense (DoD). They use it to investigate the recycling of electronics that support national security.
Department of Defense representatives see particular value in components such as microelectronic circuits that amplify radio frequencies, according to project officials. They have materials that are in such high demand that they are essential to a stronger supply chain. It is then easier to move the recycling equipment directly to the disposal site than to take extra steps to transport it to another location.
However, corporate leaders have different priorities based on their current resources and most pressing issues. In the first effort he can choose one or more focal points and hope for the best results. Then, based on how your initial recycling and reuse attempts went, you might decide to scale up from there.
E-waste reduction often requires partnerships
This brief outlines some concrete, actionable things that electronics manufacturers can consider to increase their reliance on recycled electronics in their supply chains. However, they must remember that it is not always possible to progress without help.
That might mean joining forces with another electronics manufacturer that has been involved in recycling for years. It also means finding the right service he provider that offers outside recycling assistance. Such an option is essential when a company cannot yet afford to install machines on site and lacks years of experience in following best practices.
There is still room for improvement in the recycling of electronics. The good news, however, is that there are many dedicated people working on the problem. What they learn can be invaluable to the sector and the world at large.