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E-waste & Circular Economy: The next million-dollar idea

E waste handled by our waste management consultants

E-waste is a term used to describe electronic waste that is discarded by its owner after the device has been upgraded or lived its full life, without the intention of re-use. It is also known as WEEE (waste electrical or electronic equipment). E-waste comes from households, businesses, and governments. 

The major reason for the accumulation of e-waste is mankind’s desire to upgrade technology every few months. This unchecked human behavior is creating a global issue. According to the United Nations, the situation can be called a ‘tsunami of e-waste.’

What items can be classified as e-waste? 

  • Mobile phones, Laptops, TVs
  • Refrigerators, Dishwashers, Washing Machines, Microwaves 
  • Air conditioners, Heaters, Thermostats
  • Calculators, Digital Clocks
  • MP3 players, power banks, batteries, hard drives 
  • USB Cables etc.

A hard-hitting fact: Only 20% of the e-waste discarded is documented, collected, and recycled. 80% of e-waste is dumped in an unorganized manner and ends up in landfills for centuries. The worst part is e-waste is non-biodegradable. 

How to combat the e-waste problem? 

The solution to this problem is to identify e-waste as a great business opportunity rather than looking at it as a dead end. This particular category of waste contains valuable materials that have economic value when recycled effectively. According to a statistic, 60% of e-waste consists of useful metals such as iron, copper, aluminum, gold, indium, and palladium, whereas only 2.7% comprises of pollutants. A lot of these metals could be recovered, recycled, and used as secondary raw materials for new goods. “There is 100 times more gold in a tonne of smartphones than in a ton of gold ore.” (WEF)

Here are some easy steps on how e-waste can be managed: 

1) Re-evaluate investing in a new gadget or electronic device 

As a business or an individual, if your goal is to lower your carbon footprint and leave a positive impact on the environment, it is important to invest in gadgets or devices that can serve multiple purposes, instead of investing in several gadgets to satisfy a singular purpose. 

2) Make efforts to extend the life of your gadgets or electrical appliances

If your electronic device stops functioning, try and get it repaired, instead of discarding it. Investing in timely cleaning and maintenance of the device is a great way to extend the lifespan of the device. 

3) Donate older gadgets or electronic devices 

There are moments for your business where electronic devices might need to be discarded even when they are in working condition. In such a situation, donating these products is a logical solution. It is a good idea to reach out to local institutions or charities that require such equipment. Donating, rather than mindless discarding, is a great way to manage e-waste effectively. Also, in rare cases, there are tax benefits to this too. 

4) Invest in gadgets or devices that are eco-friendly

Tech can be green to a certain extent. Here is a list of eco-friendly devices: 

  • USB rechargeable batteries 
  • High-efficiency solar chargers 
  • Smart switches (energy saving switches)
  • Washing machines that have steam, washing, and drying (all in one)
  • Induction cooking ranges 
  • Solar Cookers 
  • Eco-friendly modular mobile phones
  • Wireless Charging Devices 
  • Intelligent air-conditioners 
  • Eco-friendly printers
  • Smart Air-purifiers 

5) Using older mobile phones as GPS devices 

Mobile phones have become a status symbol, and thanks to phone companies upgrading and launching a new model in a span of a few months rendering the old model to be obsolete thus creating a sense of urgency to upgrade even when the old phone is in working condition. To combat this problem, old mobile phones can be used as GPS devices for your car. The possibility of converting old phones into universal remotes or devices to monitor security cameras also exists. 

6) Evolution of cloud computing and IoT

Changes in technology such as cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT) could hold the potential to lower e-waste produced by the electronics industry. Also, the rise of service business models and better product tracking and takeback could lead to global circular value chains. 

7) Head towards a circular economy in e-waste management 

The concept of circular economy stresses on the fact that all materials and components are designed to operate at their highest value at all times and waste is designed out of the system. The circular economy concept can be achieved through various business models that include service, sharing of assets, life extension, and finally recycling. It can be applied to e-waste management by: 

  • Designing reusable, durable, and recyclable electronic devices.
  • Implementing buy-back or return systems of electronic devices by incentivizing the consumer financially with a guarantee their data will be handled properly.
  • Applying principles of advanced recycling and recapturing of the e-waste. 
  • Applying the concept of ‘Reverse logistics’, where a discarded product is collected and sent back to be reintegrated into production. This concept is also known as the ‘reverse supply chain’.  

E-waste is a technical subject that requires the mind of experts. People who understand the nuances of e-waste disposal and can help businesses and organizations tackle this problem are known as waste management consultants. And as the World Economic Forum has rightly pointed out there is a surge of e-waste entrepreneurs, as e-waste recycling has become a lucrative business. This idea is a job creator. All it needs is the right policy mix and access to finance for expansion and scaling up generating additional jobs for tens if not hundreds of thousands of workers, thus leading towards a circular economy.

E waste handled by our waste management consultants

What’s the role of waste management consultants? 

Waste management consultants are professionals, in matters related to hazardous and non-hazardous wastes and their disposal mechanisms, that are hired by businesses and organizations to design waste management systems that abide by government rules and regulations (especially environment protection laws) and help these businesses lower their carbon footprint by applying effective waste disposal strategies. 

E-waste management is a great business idea and it needs the mind of experts. Take the help of a waste management consultants from HPG consulting to learn more about how to optimize and make e-waste management into a profitable venture. 

 

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