The growing demand for electronics devices on the market inevitably creates ongoing problems that too many discarded electronics are dumped well before the end of their useful life. Many attempts to embed recycling schemes on the business model and metals recovery have not been able to tackle the current challenges which hinder the ability to prolonging the life cycle of these devices.
A recent iNEMI report towards miniaturization, product de-materialization, and the introduction of new heterogeneous materials systems create new challenges with respect to materials supply, materials recovery, and electronics recycling. In addition, lack of end-user incentives on reusing their devices and limited technologies and solutions to extract the total value and extend the life cycle of used equipment may add other obstacles to offset the growing global electronics carcass.
A particular importance in addressing those challenges relies on how stakeholders in the value chain collaborate and contribute to managing critical resources and increasing value recovery while protecting human health and safety and environment. On the commercial side, engaging in value recovery activities should be done in a way without compromising the security of its data.
1. Sustainable product design and manufacturing
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) can collaborate with After Market Service (AMS) providers to develop, examine, and build a blue print to what extend value recovery can be embedded within product design and manufacture.
Some companies and institutes, for example Seagate and the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) as cited in “Value Recovery from Used Hard Disk Drives” by iNEMI, have been examining various approaches to value recovery through new technologies for removing and reusing magnets from HDD, and economic, environmental, and logistics analyses to examine the variability of various scenarios for used HDD and other used electronics.
2. Circular Economy (CE) business model in product use
On the commercial sectors, companies can enforce the implementation of CE business model in many ways. As Xavier Hubert; Teleplan Global Director Market Offerings identified, commercial sectors can benefit by sharing, renting, re-selling, or hardware-as-a service. By doing so, plenty more used equipment will stay in the market and manufacturers will only benefit.
Offering trade-in or buyback programs when selling new devices offers multi benefits not only for end users but also the companies. End users will be able to save money and cut cost for reinvestment activity while companies offering it will earns additional revenues streams and promote brand loyalty in the longer term.
Further, offering enhanced or out of warranty programs also provides an additional layer of trust. Despite the fact such programs have already existed on the market either by manufacturer’ warranty or extended warranty policies provided by retailers or through insurance companies, but its implementation is not yet effective. Xavier Hubert clearly stressed out in a survey he ran last year that 98% of UK adults were found to be unaware of their basic consumer rights to return, refund, or exchange faulty goods. Hence, it is essential to educate consumers on this regard.
Another concern clouding the customers’ initiative to re-selling or re-using its equipment is about how the existing data is properly treated and no leak which may deteriorate brands reputation. Processes must be put in place, proper data deletion processes compliant to recognized industry standard such as HMG Infosec (UK) and NIST 800-80 (US National Institute of Standards and Technology). Hence, it leads to choosing the right service provider or ITAD partners.
3. Product value recovery in End-of-Life (EOL) management
Key of implementing value recovery is by keeping products high on the value creation hierarchy. It consists of six cycles, namely maintain, reuse, refurbish, repair, reuse part, and recycle its materials where product is cascaded its use at each cycle. The companies should be aware of- that in order to extract the total value from their used equipment, they need to maximize its use in each cycle on the value creation hierarchy. The selected ITAD partner needs to demonstrate the capability, offers solutions and possesses the technology to improve the chance of value recovery from end-of-life equipment.
By integrating value recovery as an aim to achieve designed for circularity would be one of the possible solutions to end up a growing e-waste problem. Stakeholders need to come together and start formulating how to educate consumers and businesses on developing sustainable product design and manufacturing, product use, and EOL management.