Reduce, reuse, remanufacture: becoming a sustainable business

Top Business Tech looks at the impact of e-waste and how organizations can become a more sustainable by joining remanufacturing schemes to mitigate against the global depletion of resources.
Sponsored – Top Business Tech looks at the impact of e-waste and how organizations can become a more sustainable by joining remanufacturing schemes to mitigate against the global depletion of resources.

The US Energy Information Administration projects that the US alone will see a 5% increase in carbon emissions by 2050, bringing its total to a staggering 4,807 million metric tonnes. A significant contributor to the rise in carbon emissions is the manufacturing process of various goods. With advancements in technology over the recent years, a notable portion of this manufacturing produces electronic items, which eventually become e-waste.

What is e-waste? 

E-waste is any waste material with a power source, be it cable or battery, including items such as laptops, fridges, or less publicly commercial products such as databases, network switches, and firewalls. In 2019, 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste were produced, seeing an increase of almost 2 million tonnes from the previous year. Unfortunately, only 17% was recycled sustainably, with the remaining 83% discarded in landfills, where they can cause significant harm to the local environment.

It’s easy to overlook the long-term effects of waste when we discard items, especially electrical ones. Still, the reality is that the chemicals present in most e-waste can cause serious long-term damage to both people and animals through inhalation, ingestion, and skin exposure.

Accelerating global depletion

The damage is not only limited to environmental impact. Each year, an estimated 50 tonnes of mercury and over £44.8mn in gold, silver, copper, and iron are improperly discarded when they could be repurposed. Moreover, the global depletion of resources has been steadily occurring since the 1970s. The consumption of natural materials is vastly outrunning the rate at which the Earth can reproduce them, with experts predicting total resource exhaustion within the next 60 years.

Taking responsibility for e-waste

With the amount of e-waste predicted to exceed 74 million tonnes by 2030, it’s imperative that businesses globally look for sustainable methods of producing and maintaining electronic items, not only reduce the impact on the planet but to ensure business longevity well into the future.

Electronics recycling isn’t a new concept; since the introduction of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations in 2007, many waste disposal companies can successfully recycle a significant portion of electronic waste. However, given the rate at which we impact the environment and deplete resources, responsibility can no longer fall on disposal companies alone.

Remanufacturing Schemes 

Finding opportunities to engage in sustainable business practices can appear daunting at first, but as technologies expand, so do how we can recycle and repurpose them. Businesses can now participate in various remanufacturing schemes to aid in the plight for a more sustainable future. Leading this drive is networking hardware provider Cisco, who has created the Cisco Refresh program. In turn, organizations can find retailers connected to remanufacturing schemes, such as Chulo, part of the Ampito Group’ which champions the Cisco Refresh program and sells remanufactured technology from phones to network switches.

Remanufacturing sits somewhere between reusing and recycling. Recycling requires the product to be entirely broken down and repurposed as raw materials. Remanufacturing involves the product being disassembled and updated, or having its components repurposed elsewhere on the factory line. This reduces the need to harvest new resources from the planet’s dwindling supplies and reducing the CO2 emissions that manufacturing and mining new resources create.

By nature, remanufacturing involves returning a product to its original performance levels with an equivalent or better warranty than the original. Thorough testing is implemented at every stage of the remanufacturing process to ensure that its functionalities are at the same standard a customer would expect from a new product. 

Benefits of remanufacturing 
  • Remanufacturing gives new life to products that were otherwise at end-of-life.
  • Items no longer on the market are once more available.
  • It addresses the over-mining of resources.
  • It reduces the damage caused by incorrectly disposed electronics.
  • Businesses can vastly decrease the amount of waste associated with the changing of old technology.
  • By remanufacturing old technology, businesses can save a significant amount of money in the process, with remanufactured goods costing up to 70% less than their newly manufactured counterparts.

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Remanufacturing is a logical solution to meeting the growing demand for technology. In addition, organizations need to act now in an age where taking responsibility for carbon emissions is critical.

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