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© teleplan Electronics Production | May 20, 2015

What we can do to combat the growing e-waste mountain

Too many old, disused or discarded electronics are dumped well before the end of their useful life. Many have the capacity to be reused, resold, repaired, recycled or safely disposed of and every year the problem gets worse…
A recent report from the United Nations University (UNU) revealed more than GBP 34 billion of potentially recyclable goods end up in ‘toxic mines’. That means less than 16 per cent of global e-waste is diverted away from landfill.

The economic cost of waste electronics is alarming on two counts. The first is from the cost of disposal and clean up; but there is also the lost revenue that reusing and recycling materials could generate. The UNU report found the global waste dump contained 1'000 tonnes of silver worth GBP 400 million, 16 megatons of steel with a value of GBP 6.5 billion and 300 tonnes of gold – the equivalent to more than a 10th of annual global production.

The UNU report also reinforces our own recent findings at Teleplan where, we discovered that the British public are throwing away electronic devices worth more than GBP 1.4 billion every year. Instead of opting for a simple repair, most people choose to put electronics in the bin; 48.3 percent of respondents said items were not worth replacing, 34.3 percent bought a replacement device and 10.2 percent just could not be bothered to pay or claim for a repair.

It is important to dispose of end of life electronics goods in a way that is as environmentally friendly as possible, ensuring that any reusable components are recovered as well as any hazardous substances are removed safely. Harmful heavy metals and chemicals commonly used in the manufacture of electronics can easily filter into the ground and water systems, for example.

Working with trusted after-sales services providers from the start of the process means an effective reuse and recycling strategy can be built into the supply chain that will save companies money and enable perfectly good components to be reutilised. The supply chain industry could take the lead to provide incentives for manufacturers, retailers and consumers, ensuring electronic products pass back into the manufacturing cycle and components re-enter the supply chain, rather than going to landfill. For example, companies are beginning to see the potential in offering trade-in or buyback schemes when selling new devices which not only saves the consumer money but also promote brand loyalty in the longer term. These companies also benefit from being better corporate citizens as they take greater responsibility for improving the environmental footprint they create.

As an industry, we can help to reduce the problem of the enormous e-waste mountain and lower costs throughout the supply chain. But for this to happen, it is essential to choose a reliable and strategic service partner that has an in-depth knowledge of the challenges at hand and global resources to draw upon in order to enhance customer service and positively impact the environment.

By Sven Boddington, Vice President, Global Marketing & Client Solutions, Teleplan International

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