Some components of electronic products contain toxic substances, which can pose a threat to the environment as well as to us humans. For example, televisions and computer monitors normally contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Equally important, electronics are made up of components that contain valuable raw materials.
Recycling old appliances saves energy. It also means that fewer raw materials have to be extracted from nature to create new devices. As a result, energy is saved, pollution is reduced and there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere.
Recycling is one of the solutions to the many problems posed by electronics. All electronic devices come with many social and environmental challenges:
– Conflict minerals, also known as 3TG, used in IT products, are known to fuel wars and human rights abuses. Unsafe mining methods cause serious health problems for workers and environmental degradation in the communities where they live.
– Hazardous substances found in electronics and used in the production of electronics pose a wide variety of risks to human health and the environment. Throughout the life cycle, products release dioxins, halogens and other toxic substances, which often persist in the natural environment and the human body.
– Socially responsible manufacturing is an ongoing challenge throughout the IT supply chain. From raw material extraction to final assembly, working hours, health and safety, and forced labor are examples of industry-wide issues.
– 50 million tonnes of electronic waste are generated each year, equivalent to the weight of nearly 4,500 Eiffel towers. Much of it is incinerated or placed in landfills, causing pollution, human health risks and the loss of precious limited resources.
More than 20 organizations have come together in a global initiative to tackle social and environmental issues in electronics. The Circular Electronics Initiative aims to encourage organizations and consumers to take a more responsible approach to the electronic goods they use.
The current linear way of producing and consuming products ruins fragile ecosystems, leading to the loss of precious natural resources and essential raw materials. In a circular economy, resources are managed more responsibly. The goal of the Circular Electronics Initiative is to raise awareness of the need for longer life for electronic products and greater recirculation of all materials while minimizing waste.
The resources of our planet are limited and we must assume our responsibilities. The initiative aims to help shoppers and consumers do just that – take a more responsible approach to the electronics they use. Nobody can do everything. But everyone can do something. The Circular Electronics Initiative has pulled together some concrete things you can do to help the transition to more circular and sustainable computing, according to Andreas Nobell, development manager at TCO Development, one of the founding organizations.
Since nearly 80% of a laptop’s carbon emissions occur during the manufacturing phase, extending the life of the product will clearly result in lower average annual emissions. Adding two years to product life reduces emissions by up to 30%. As you can see, circular approaches have a real impact on the environment. To help consumers and shoppers, the organizations behind the initiative have developed the Quiz “What do you know about circularity and electronics?” The quiz is an easy way to start the conversation about circular electronics.

6 Tips for more circular and sustainable IT management:

1. Reevaluate. Do you really need to buy and replace your current gadget? If not, make it a challenge to use it another year and reevaluate again next year.
2. Extend the life of your products. This is often the most critical thing you can do to reduce the environmental footprint of your use. Upgrade and repair your products to make them last longer. Used products are in high demand, so take advantage of the second-hand market and buy and sell your products there.
3. If you need to purchase a new product, choose products with a sustainability certification that includes strong criteria and requires third-party verification.
If you can buy a used product, be sure to do your due diligence with the supplier regarding the quality and performance of the product.
4. Choose a durable product that can last longer. Avoid buying irreparable electronic devices that you may have to throw away after a short period of use.
5. Offset the e-waste footprint of your new product, either by recycling a product with a similar footprint or by purchasing the offset as a service.
6. Don’t throw it away! Electronics contain valuable resources that can be reused. If it is not possible to reuse or sell your old products, take them to a recycler or electronics refurbisher where they will be treated responsibly.
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