Circular Economy

Solutions to manage the toxic e-waste problem

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

According to a recent United Nations report, annual global e-waste could grow to almost 75 million metric tonnes by 2030. 

That concerns given that many of the electronics discarded could be re-used, reducing the need to produce more. Electronic waste also contains harmful chemicals that can leach into the environment and pose health hazards. E-waste will continue to create more problems if not appropriately addressed.

E-waste is already a major catastrophe

The world already produces close to 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year. This translates to 20 kilos of electronic waste created per year per person in France. Only about 20 percent of e-waste, which contains valuable metals and rare earth elements vital for electronics, is ever recycled. The rest end up in landfills or are illegally exported to poorer countries where recycling is cheap.

A typical example is the global retailer Amazon. The firm has been accused of scrapping up to 200,000 unsold or returned electronics in landfills every week. In fact, Amazon has a “destruction zone” in the UK where laptops, headphones and TVs, extension cables, and other indiscriminate electronics are destroyed on a mass scale.

Another cause of e-waste is planned obsolescence. Obsolete components are replaced by new components due to the advent of new technologies, resulting in electronic waste. Companies would rather force consumers to upgrade to the latest version rather than encourage long-term use of their devices. It’s a strategy employed by organisations to drive up sales, but often leads to higher levels of electronic waste.

Solutions to the growing e-waste problem

The good news is that emerging solutions, trends, and laws make it easier for component manufacturers to reduce e-waste.

Government initiatives

Countries like the UK, the US, and France have already put measures to tackle e-waste. Some of these regulations are meant to tackle repairability issues associated with electronic devices in order to extend their useful life. For instance, the US now gives consumer rights to repair their electronic equipment, removing any restrictions previously imposed by companies. The UK also has a law that requires manufacturers to make spare parts available to citizens and third-party repair companies.

Back home, France passed the Anti-Waste for a Circular Economy Act (AGEC) in 2020. The law requires companies to display a repairability score for products such as smartphones, laptops, televisions, washing machines, and lawnmowers. It is a scoring system describing how easy or difficult electronics are to repair.

Supply chain initiatives

In an effort to keep their e-waste stream in check, components manufacturers are employing various strategies to track and trace where their products end up. This typically involves collaborating with partners across the supply chain to track and retrieve used electronics as well as unused products from consumers. Perhaps your company is deeply engaged in the same or a similar process.

Samsung, for example, allows customers to trade in their old devices in exchange for brand new mobile phones. Tesla customers own their cars, but they share their batteries which are constantly being refurbished and recycled in a circular supply chain.

Manufacturers are also starting to design products with a circular lifecycle in mind. Consideration is given to the product’s engineering modularity to enable easier disassembling of parts for reuse or recycling at end of life. The goal is to preserve the value of electronics to avoid incineration or disposal of used components into landfills. The process is convenient for the consumers and components manufacturers as well.

Electronic products end of life management

Recycling is possibly the best way to extend the lifecycle of electronic products today, but recycling alone will not be enough. An obvious solution to the massive e-waste is the further development of circular economies.

The circular economy refers to an ideal, zero-waste economy where the electronics supply chain follows a closed-loop system. It starts with manufacturing and utilization and then moves into reuse, repair, refurbish, remanufacture, etc.

If the electronics industry developed robust and functioning circular economies, it could significantly reduce e-waste. It could put obsolete or surplus electronics to re-use. As a result, it could extend a component's life and cycles much longer.

What is AIRENC?

AIRENC is a peer-to-peer transaction platform that enables circularity within the electronic components sector. It is an innovative platform that enables OEMs and EMS companies to give their e-waste a second life and stop it from going into landfills. If a component has gone obsolete, you can find buyers interested in it on the AIRENC platform and sell it at a fair price.

Similarly, you can use our platform to offload excess inventory directly to buyers interested in excess stock. So you don’t have to wait for months or years to liquidate surplus stock. You don’t have to scrap or sell it cheaply to brokers either. If the components fail to find a buyer, we will help you recycle those components properly through our network of partners dedicated to electronics recycling. Retrieved parts can then be refurbished or recycled, giving them a second life in a circular supply chain.

AIRENC aims to bridge the gaps between all players in the electronic components supply chain by improving transparency across the life cycle of electronic devices. Our technology enables vastly improved collaboration and resale of obsolete and surplus electronic components, which helps reduce e-waste.

Join AIRENC today to give your components a second life instead of sending the products to a landfill for scraping.


Try the AIRENC platform today