The term circular economy is used more and more when discussing sustainability. The circular economy is a relatively new mode of consumption which minimizes waste and encourages co-operatives, co-creation, recycling, upcycling and the re-distribution of used goods. In this article we examine the different areas in the IT industry that are of great importance in order to address problems related to e-waste and to further the transition to a circular economy.
Combating e-waste by expanding the life cycle of electronic products
Planned obsolescence has been a significant factor of limiting the lifespan of electronic products by means of the industrial design. In the last few decades, many manufacturers in the IT industry committed themselves to specifically produce products with an artificially limited life cycle, so that it becomes obsolete faster and is in quicker need to be replaced. Examples of planned obsolescence are irreplaceable batteries in tech products or the inability to refill and ink cartridge in a printer. Circularity can greatly change existing business methods in the IT industry, if implemented correctly. When circularity becomes a part of the industrial design, electronic product can be build to last. A sustainable, circular solution would be to introduce modular electronics, which gives opportunity to easily replace the core components without the need of an expert.
Recycling and refurbishing on another level
In order to tackle e-waste, it is of the up most importance to introduce effective collection systems for products that contain hazardous substances, such as lead and mercury. Recycling operations need to be upgraded in order to carefully dispose of materials that cause severe social, health and environmental damage. Furthermore, the transition to a circular economy offers an opportunity to introduce new jobs that are related to repairing and refurbishing used products. This ensures the extension of the life cycle of products that would otherwise be thrown away.