E-waste management: aiming for sustainable electronics

30th June 2022
Sam Holland

Electronics manufacturers carry the weight of electronic waste, known as e-waste, with every product. This piece from Phil Simmonds, CEO of EC Electronics, discusses various views and insights on how to achieve successful of e-waste management in the industry.

When disposed of incorrectly, electronics products can potentially release toxic chemicals and metals into the soil, water and environment, meaning the industry can have damaging effects on the environment. With the sector constantly developing, exacerbating the potential for e-waste, protecting the environment becomes more important every year.

It is, therefore, no surprise that sustainability has swiftly moved to the top of many electronics businesses’ to-do lists (and that it should be top of yours too).

Why electronics manufacturers need to prioritise sustainability

Developing a strong environmental policy and maintaining a positive business reputation go hand-in-hand.

Recent research has highlighted the link between sustainability and customer behaviours, with 80% of PWC survey participants claiming they would be more likely to buy from a company with a clear, positive approach to environmental issues. Equally, a poor or non-existent environmental policy could deter customers and damage pre-existing customer relationships.

Moreover, it has become increasingly clear that end-to-end transparency has proven critical to customer trust and, therefore, business success. Many people consider a business’ suppliers as vital to their purchase as the business itself, with 53% of UK consumers claiming they would not buy from a brand again if it had been accused of working with unethical suppliers.

Actions speak louder than words when it comes to making electronics more ethical, something which can only be achieved with careful consideration of how to improve the manufacturing process end-to-end.

Ways we can improve the sustainability of electronics products

Every stage of the manufacturing process can have a detrimental impact on the environment, so every stage should be carefully managed to ensure it is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Design eco-friendly products

The best way to ensure an electronics product is sustainable is to design it to be so. Manufacturers should prioritise product efficiency to avoid wasted energy usage. Using sustainably sourced, recyclable materials also goes a long way to reduce environmental damage further down the line. Plus, even simple adjustments such as moving the position of a component could conserve valuable space, meaning less packaging overall.

Go the extra mile with transportation

Quality, robust packaging can help reduce or eliminate the need for extra protective layers whilst the product is in transit, meaning no materials are wasted. Simply considering which products really need multiple layers of packaging can also make a meaningful difference in how much packaging is used. Manufacturers can also ensure a more sustainable product before it is even packed by implementing conscious product handling to limit damage or contamination.

Rethink raw materials

Using aluminium, borosilicate glass, iron alloy and graphene – instead of potentially toxic traditional materials that pollute our natural environments like mercury, lead, cadmium and lithium – makes a big difference to the sustainability of electronics products. Plus, these ‘green materials’ tend to perform better than their less environmentally friendly alternatives, reducing total energy usage.

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