Johannesburg, 30 Nov 2021
Today our lives are surrounded by electronic equipment that we replace every few years, and this insatiable desire to have multiple devices is killing the environment. We often don’t think about the consequences of production or our consumption models and, because of this, the world is now facing a growing e-waste problem.
The amount of electronic e-waste produced globally in 2019 reached a record of 53.6 million tonnes (Mt), up 9.2Mt in five years, according to the United Nations (UN) Global e-Waste Monitor 2020.
The UN states that in 2021, each person on the planet will produce on average 7.6kg of e-waste, meaning that a massive 57.4 million tonnes will be generated worldwide.
The UN defines e-waste as any discarded product with a battery or plug and features toxic and hazardous substances such as mercury that can pose a severe risk to human and environmental health.
Based on the latest numbers, the UN predicts that global waste will reach 74Mt by 2030, believing it will be fuelled by higher electric and electronic consumption rates, shorter life cycles and limited repair options.
How is business contributing to e-waste?
COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdowns drastically increased the consumption and use of electronics and digital solutions, with people relying on electronics for work, education and leisure. This high demand that forced manufacturers to increase production has an adverse effect.
It takes 500 pounds of fossil fuel, 50 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Factor into the equation the planned obsolescence of computers, monitors or tablets. A newer, faster version is released every year, which has seen businesses contribute a huge amount of e-waste that in the past, many simply sent to landfills or it gathered dust in discarded storage facilities.
What if we could prevent that colossal waste by holding onto our devices for much longer?
In the face of climate change, companies must find new, sustainable ways to handle e-waste. The best way to do this is to slow down the production of new products that rely on our finite natural resources by using refurbished or remanufactured equipment, according to Kwirirai Rukowo, General Manager of Qrent, a hardware supplier of refurbished IT equipment.
He says: “Introducing refurbished laptops or desktops in your environment means keeping products in use for longer and facilitating the regeneration of natural systems." Extending the lifetime of these products by increasing product lifetime, delaying obsolescence and improving their suitability can significantly reduce their environmental and climate impacts.
For example, refurbished laptops play a huge role in saving carbon emissions. Studies have shown that the long and complicated supply chains to transport laptop materials across the world create a huge carbon footprint. Using refurbished laptops erases this trail, lowering the environmental impact of IT products.
On top of saving the environment, refurbished ICT equipment also comes with financial benefits. According to Rukowo, businesses and consumers can save anything from 30% to 50% when they opt for refurbished equipment instead of buying brand new products.
“Looking at our facilities based in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the UK, we have hundreds of tier one products including laptops, desktops, tablets, printers and monitors that we have offered to our clients at a reduced price point – helping them optimise their IT budget while keeping their IT sustainable.”
To conclude is the unexpected benefit, addressing the current global chip shortage. “OEMs have not been able to produce and supply new equipment, which has resulted in businesses looking to refurbished IT to keep their infrastructure running. For many that were sceptical, they are discovering the environmental and financial benefits of refurbished IT. Equipment is available immediately and at a great price point," concludes Rukowo.