Solutions for global office generated e-waste are needed

Tackling business e-waste can be seen as the upcoming challenge of the post-Covid era.

A new UN report showed that while electronic sales may have fallen by 30% in developing countries in the first few quarters of 2020 due to the pandemic, this rate only declined by 5% in richer nations.

In fact, the study published by the United Nations University and the UN Institute for Training and Research, revealed that in some instances, the consumption of specific types of electronic equipment such as mobile phones and laptops increased in high-income countries on account of Covid-19.

E-waste is currently the fastest growing waste stream in the world, with the Covid-19 generated tech boom predicted to exacerbate this situation, as global e-waste is expected to reach new towering heights at 74 million metric tonnes by 2030.

Research found that 36% of businesses in the US do not have e-waste policies. This may help explain why 60% of electrical waste gets dumped on landfills.

But with consumers taking a stand on sustainability and 92% of businesses claiming to take the environmental impact of their products seriously, a change in attitude, especially towards business e-waste, seems imminent.

In a Euronews article, Carmen Ine, CEO of 3stepIT, identified abandoned desktops as the prominent e-waste problem in offices.

She explained that with workers returning to offices and adopting hybrid workstyles, the big question remains on how to dispose of unwanted devices.

The equipment in question represents an untapped solution to resource scarcity as recovered raw materials have their respective uses in the pharmaceutical and car industry as well as in the production of green technologies such as wind turbines, photovoltaics, batteries and fuel cells.

A possible solution to the obsolescence of technological equipment would entail moving away from a purchase-oriented model to a lease contract, which would simultaneously allow manufacturers to mine critical materials from older desktops whilst providing workplaces with new models, technology being conceived of as a service rather than a single-use product.

By placing greater emphasis on refurbishment, e-waste and associated carbon emissions could be eliminated to a more significant extent.