Millions of tonnes of electronic waste is dumped every year across the world, and last year the United Nations University’s Global E-Waste Monitor predicted global e-waste to hit 50 million tonnes in 2018. These discarded materials are left in landfill and contain rich sources of metals, that can be redesigned and redefined into new products, thus extending their product lifespan’s and promotes sustainable manufacturing.
The issue is that new products and design are constantly entering the electronic landscape, and as a society, we don’t have the right technology to successfully recycle these materials, meaning that they continue to be left for waste after their short life span.
The key lies in the design and production phase, where recycling is not the go-to, and instead manufacturers should begin to design for disassembly, allowing people to modify and repair their products, rather than throwing them out, once they are supposedly broken.
The Restart Project is a particularly good social enterprise trying to tackle this problem, classifying themselves as a people-powered social enterprise, aiming to transform the electronic landscape, attempting to fix people’s perceptions and relationship with electronic equipment.
The Restart Project, as well as BuyAnyPart, is working hard to initiate pro-Right-to-Repair
measures to allow for
Access to spare parts
In a recent report, The Restart Project highlighted that negotiations by the European Commission have been set in place for energy and resource efficient products to go ahead. This has been a long time coming, where the Commission will set out long-planned Ecodesign and Energy Labelling requirements for several products to be set forward. This obliges manufacturers to produce electrical goods that can do the same job but for less energy which ultimately means cutting down significant waste.
Easing the Process
The EU is considering the right rules that require tech companies to provide replacement parts and diagnostic tools to independent repair shops, with consumers also able to receive repair instructions.
It is often the case that consumers are forced to send their electrical equipment back to the original manufacturer or buy new ones, adding the linear manufacturing model that needs to shift.
A recent statistic by the European body stated that 77% of EU citizens would prefer to repair good rather than buy new ones, meaning that it is now up to manufacturers and governments to put these options in place, in order to kick start the circular economy.
With 44.7 million metric tons generated in 2016, e-waste is the fastest growing waste steam, accounting for 70% of the toxic waste in US landfills, and therefore needs to be addressed immediately.
The waste ranges from electrical equipment such as laptops and smartphones, to domestic household equipment such as washing machines and toasters. The problem is that big companies and corporations, like Apple and Samsung, are making it harder for people to repair their own equipment which has seen huge increases in their individual sales, as people are locked into the ‘upgrade’ mentality, always seeking the newest model and unable to fix their phones once they begin to tarnish.
The proposals set in place are also there to help save and recover resources by making designs easier to repair and recycle. The energy efficiency requirements alone can help save an additional 62m tonnes in CO2 emissions a year. Adopting the proposal will also mean that consumers and businesses can save up to €23bn in reduced energy bills per year starting from 2030.
The idea is to ultimately make it easier for consumers to repair their products and can also bring about potential job creation into the sector, redefining jobs and tailoring them for the repair economy. There is still a long way to go and it is up to the European Commission to make positive decisions and fight for a brighter future.