Reuse and Recycle: Google, Microsoft & Dell join forces to tackle e-waste crisis by 2030
Posted By : Gaurav Kaul | Date : Apr 29 2021 5:29 PM
According to the United Nations, more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste was discarded in 2019, with the vast majority ending up in landfills and on scrap heaps.
With only 17 percent of products recycled, the UN estimates that materials worth more than $55 billion (50 billion euros) are being wasted every year. This indeed is a big timebomb that we are sitting on which is not only eating up on hygiene conditions for our mother earth but will explode anytime in the future and we shall have no place to go.
So now the major technology firms including Google, Microsoft, and Dell have come together for a new initiative aimed at creating a circular economy for electronics by 2030, amid mounting alarm over the world's ballooning e-waste problem. Other Companies taking part include Cisco, Glencore, KPMG International, Sims Limited, and Vodafone.
The project comes as humanity's insatiable appetite for smartphones, household appliances, and electronic car parts combined with the short lifespans of many tech products have made e-waste the planet's fastest-growing refuse.
Those products contain gold, silver, copper, and platinum as well as highly-prized rare earth metals. Meanwhile, more must be mined to make new products, sparking environmental and human rights fears.
The new initiative, led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Economic Forum, has outlined a vision for how the industry might break this habit. And added by cautioning that this is only a first step and does not include financial commitments or firm targets. The council further stated that none should assume that the manufacturers can produce as many products as they want without thinking about what happens at end of life adding that electronics involved include everything with a plug or a battery.
Ideas range from designing products so that precious metals are easier to extract, to creating an "eco-label" system, but the council stated that the initial step was more modest -- coming up with a shared idea of what a circular economy might look like.
Providing a common platform for this can help in making sure that when one company is going in one direction, another company isn't going in a different direction with the same goal.
Dell confirmed half of the materials it uses will be "recycled or renewable" by 2030. But as an industry, we need to move faster.
In a separate announcement in October, Apple said its newest iPhones would be produced using completely recycled rare earth materials.
Just over half of all emissions in the IT sector come from the use of equipment and data centers, with the rest from production. And one of the key ways to bring down those emissions and meet net-zero targets is through a more circular economy -- reusing, recycling, and extending the life of products.
A briefing from the European Environment Agency last year said research into smartphones, televisions, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners showed that their lifespan was more than two years shorter than either their designed or desired lifetimes.
There are nearly 700 million old "hibernating" mobile phones in Europe alone, amounting to some 14,920 tonnes of gold, silver, copper, palladium, cobalt, and lithium with a value of over a billion euros. While stronger waste regulations are crucial, more specialized recycling facilities are also needed to process the sheer volume of e-waste.