Sustainability discussions have been front and center for government and industry leaders worldwide. There has been much talk about reducing e-waste and the impact it has on the environment. Globally, the world generated 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019 and that number is expected to grow to 74.7 million metric tons by 2030.¹ This is fueled by the growing market for all kinds of electronics with limited participation in formal recycling and reuse programs. In simple terms, the world is still too focused on consuming and throwing away.

This text is part of the Circular Electronics Initiative blog series. Multiple organizations stand behind this initiative that aims sto encourage organizations and consumers to take a more responsible approach to electronics.

The embracing of sustainable practices in IT among businesses has been slow. Most do not have an environmentally sustainable process in place for disposing of IT equipment. Greater importance must be placed on making a difference and changing the trajectory. Opportunities continue to exist to become more efficient at managing IT infrastructure lifecycle and e-waste management.

In many locations around the world, policies and regulatory requirements govern how end users are supposed to dispose of their equipment in order to help keep this equipment out of landfills when the electronics reach end of life. The question is, how can a customer address this e-waste issue while fulfilling business and operational goals? The circular economy is one of the key initiatives of sustainability to drive change.

As part of sustainability initiatives, IT leadership will need to consider the impact of e-waste arising from their infrastructure environment going forward. It’s not just a trend but a necessity.

Circular Economy

A circular economy gives us the tool to tackle resource use, climate change and biodiversity loss while addressing important social needs by repairing, refurbishing, reintroducing, remanufacturing or recycling products, keeping them in the economy. The goal is to have very little to no waste. Traditional economic approach is linear, beginning from natural resource to final product and ultimately disposal. Extending the life of electronic products and re-using components benefits the economy by generating less CO2 emission compared to mining for raw materials or manufacturing. Functioning equipment is valued more than the materials they contain.² E-waste no longer becomes a waste or pollutant when it is put back into the economy in a useful format.