Over the past few years, I’d been using my son’s old laptop out of necessity. Close to ten years old and clocking in at nearly seven pounds, we often referred to it as “the beast”. Now I have a wonderful new, slim laptop with plenty of memory and speed. But what to do with “the beast”?
At the World Economic Forum this past spring, experts highlighted the harsh reality that electronics are the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. According to a report released on the heels of the conference, “The material value of e-waste alone is worth $62.5 billion, three times more than the annual output of the world’s silver mines and more than the GDP of most countries.” The reduced life spans of electrical, electronic, and consumer electronic devices are generating large amounts of e-waste, which is growing rapidly every year. Globally, the e-waste management market is expected to top $49.4 billion by 2020 and is on track to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in emerging as well as developed regions.
So what materials make up e-waste? An excellent report titled The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017 provides a comprehensive breakdown of the types of discarded e-waste materials. ABS and polycarbonate constitute the plastics used for mobile phones, while copper and other compounds, epoxies, ceramics, and metals add up to approximately 79% of mobile materials. Electronic waste is hard to dispose of due to the fact that it is not meant to be taken apart, while hazardous materials such as cadmium, lead, arsenic, mercury, and chromium require special handling. With a growing share of e-waste ending up in developing countries, the lack of proper regulations and policies are insufficient to protect the population and the environment. Only recently have studies been conducted to assess the health impact imposed by poor handling practices where metals may end up leaching into the ground or waterways.
Greater education and programming is needed to drive greater material and environmental sustainability.
A new initiative combining the efforts of the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development wants to change that. The group recently formed the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE), with a mission to encourage industry, governments, and individual citizens to work towards establishing sustainable practices regarding e-waste. Companies such as Dell and Apple have implemented recycling or take-back programs to address landfill issues and are driving the circular economy. Overall, however, greater education and programming is needed to drive greater material and environmental sustainability.
At Match Point Strategies, our passion is collaborating with our clients to accelerate business opportunities for unique products that drive the circular economy and minimize e-waste. Learn more about Match Point Strategies and our services here.