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Three Ways to Reduce E-waste

Published 08 August 2022

Author
Kat Pilkington
5 min read

By 2030, electronic waste, otherwise known as e-waste, will reach

1. Recycle and Upcycle: Turn Trash into Treasure 

E-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream, reaching 57.4 million tonnes in 2021 – yet, the vast majority of discarded electronics contain useful raw materials that are in high demand. Copper, nickel, and cobalt are rare earth elements (REE) needed to make electronics, electric vehicles and wind turbines, and tech brands could be using this excess of wasted REE to their advantage. Not only would they prevent more waste from entering the stream and damaging the planet, but they would be profitably upcycling unwanted goods. 

What ideas can this insight spark for tech brands?

Tackle the issue before it even reaches the waste stream; make recycling and upcycling accessible with purpose-built programs for customers looking to upgrade or replace electronics at the end of their lives. Take the lead from Apple, which revealed last year that the iPhone uses 98% of recycled rare earth elements, and stated that customers could ‘return [their] device through Apple Trade in, and we’ll give it a new life or recycle it for free’. And electronics giant Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Upcycling at Home scheme, which encourages customers to repurpose their old mobile handsets into smart home devices, like baby monitors.  

 

2. Repair and Reuse: Close the Loop 

Savvy brands are now developing modular electronics with replacement and repair front of mind. Adopting a circular production model where waste and materials can be used again could help the US economy reach $4.5tn by 2030 – and savvy brands are developing modular electronics with replacement and repair front of mind. 

What ideas can this insight spark for tech brands?

Take a look at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland’s new research project, Ecotronics, which aims to help manufacturers find ways to reduce e-waste through sustainable material use and design – or get inspiration from tech Nirav Patel’s Framework laptop, which the former Apple, Meta, and Oculus engineer built so that every component, from the keyboard to the batteries, could be replaced. 

 

3. Educate: Cultivate Low-Consumption Behaviours 

By teaching people how to repair their own products and recycle correctly, tech brands can face some major challenges of e-waste head-on. The Right to Repair Act states that every electronic equipment owner now has a right to repair their devices. Before this legislation existed, many companies were wary about customers fixing their products without consulting the company’s tech service, a long-winded process that pushed many consumers towards the use of independent service shops that might void their warranty. Even if a product is beyond use, it still needs to be disposed of responsibly – but consumers still have misconceptions around both of these areas.  

What ideas can this insight spark for tech brands?

Get creative with educating consumers on how to properly recycle their electronics, like the Californian e-waste recycling company, Re-Teck. It has gamified the learning process with a game app called Recycle Avengers, which makes understanding the ways and importance of recycling e-waste more fun and engaging. 

These are just some of the many opportunities for tech brands to harness the possibilities and technology insight around e-waste reduction. 

 

To find out more about how businesses are incorporating considerations around e-waste reduction into their future product lines, download your sample report: The Biodesign Landscape 2022.

Get in touch to speak to a member of our team who can talk you through how a Stylus membership can help your brand harness this insight – and more.  

1. Recycle and Upcycle: Turn Trash into Treasure 

E-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream, reaching 57.4 million tonnes in 2021 – yet, the vast majority of discarded electronics contain useful raw materials that are in high demand. Copper, nickel, and cobalt are rare earth elements (REE) needed to make electronics, electric vehicles and wind turbines, and tech brands could be using this excess of wasted REE to their advantage. Not only would they prevent more waste from entering the stream and damaging the planet, but they would be profitably upcycling unwanted goods. 

What ideas can this insight spark for tech brands?

Tackle the issue before it even reaches the waste stream; make recycling and upcycling accessible with purpose-built programs for customers looking to upgrade or replace electronics at the end of their lives. Take the lead from Apple, which revealed last year that the iPhone uses 98% of recycled rare earth elements, and stated that customers could ‘return [their] device through Apple Trade in, and we’ll give it a new life or recycle it for free’. And electronics giant Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Upcycling at Home scheme, which encourages customers to repurpose their old mobile handsets into smart home devices, like baby monitors.  

 

2. Repair and Reuse: Close the Loop 

Savvy brands are now developing modular electronics with replacement and repair front of mind. Adopting a circular production model where waste and materials can be used again could help the US economy reach $4.5tn by 2030 – and savvy brands are developing modular electronics with replacement and repair front of mind. 

What ideas can this insight spark for tech brands?

Take a look at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland’s new research project, Ecotronics, which aims to help manufacturers find ways to reduce e-waste through sustainable material use and design – or get inspiration from tech Nirav Patel’s Framework laptop, which the former Apple, Meta, and Oculus engineer built so that every component, from the keyboard to the batteries, could be replaced. 

 

3. Educate: Cultivate Low-Consumption Behaviours 

By teaching people how to repair their own products and recycle correctly, tech brands can face some major challenges of e-waste head-on. The Right to Repair Act states that every electronic equipment owner now has a right to repair their devices. Before this legislation existed, many companies were wary about customers fixing their products without consulting the company’s tech service, a long-winded process that pushed many consumers towards the use of independent service shops that might void their warranty. Even if a product is beyond use, it still needs to be disposed of responsibly – but consumers still have misconceptions around both of these areas.  

What ideas can this insight spark for tech brands?

Get creative with educating consumers on how to properly recycle their electronics, like the Californian e-waste recycling company, Re-Teck. It has gamified the learning process with a game app called Recycle Avengers, which makes understanding the ways and importance of recycling e-waste more fun and engaging. 

These are just some of the many opportunities for tech brands to harness the possibilities and technology insight around e-waste reduction. 

 

To find out more about how businesses are incorporating considerations around e-waste reduction into their future product lines, download your sample report: The Biodesign Landscape 2022.

Get in touch to speak to a member of our team who can talk you through how a Stylus membership can help your brand harness this insight – and more.