The problem of end of life electronics is magnified by the tremendous growth of the electronics industry. As newer models of electronic devices are manufactured, the old ones are being discarded at a faster rate than ever before. In fact, e-waste has become a 48.5-million-ton problem in 2018.
While consumers are aware of the dire environmental effects of improper e-waste disposal, not many of them are practicing safe recycling methods. This is primarily due to the risk of identity theft and data breach. As a result, old electronics are either stored at home or being shipped as hazardous waste to developing countries.
It’s easy to put the blame on irresponsible consumers, but the responsibility should be in the hands of electronics companies that manufacture the computers, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices that consumers use. The hidden reality is that behind the technological innovations and advanced manufacturing processes, companies continue to rely on practices that deplete the earth’s resources and cause harm to the environment with their fast-growing carbon footprint.
The electronics and the IT sectors should take responsibility for the proper disposal of obsolete electronics. But what’s even more important is for the companies to shift to more responsible manufacturing methods and supply chain management. This involves reducing greenhouse gases, making use of sustainable design and recycled materials, and eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals.
Big name electronic companies are scrambling to implement their green electronics campaign because they recognize the fact that not having a sustainable manufacturing and e-recycling process could have a detrimental impact on their brand and brand value.
Informed consumers are increasingly choosing brands and products that have a sound and sustainable manufacturing process as well as a clear and secure e-recycling process. Companies known for their unacceptable practices run the risk of losing customers and damaging their brand reputation.
Consumer electronics companies don’t want to be in a position of vulnerability, especially when it affects their profitability. Environmental watchdogs, lobbyists, and legislators are putting the pressure on these companies not only to comply with e-waste disposal regulations, but also to find innovative solutions to design electronic products that are environmentally safe and less reliant on depleting sources of energy.
Protecting brand reputation starts by being transparent about the supply chain processes and manufacturing methods. Companies that are not revealing the greenhouse gas footprint of their operations are those that rely heavily on dirty energy.
Companies are hyper-focused on churning out new electronic devices at an incredible pace just to keep up with consumer demand and they’re doing it a high cost to the environment.
On the interim, consumer electronics companies must create a complete and sustainable e-recycling solution for their obsolete electronics. This solution can include responsible destruction of e-waste, recovery of reusable parts and component, and prolonging the life cycle of the products. Until such time companies can design green electronics with planned obsolescence, the solution is to have a sound and transparent e-recycling process.
If companies start to channel their research and development into designing products that use reusable materials and renewable energy, they could gradually eliminate the problem of electronics disposal and keep their good brand reputation intact.