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Ken Webster: “Business opportunity to close the loop”

2018-10-29

We had a chat with Ken Webster, Head of Innovation at the Helen MacArthur Foundation and famous among other things for coining the phrase “circular economy”.

An important message from Webster is that there are a lot of business opportunities to identify in the growing circular economy, not the least when it comes to refurbishing and all other aspects of giving products a longer life. To give reusability a higher priority in circular economy, he places responsibility on producers and regulators.

When circular economy is discussed, there’s usually a lot of talk about "recycling”. What does it take to move some of the attention to "reuse”?

This is basically a system design question, but of course there are many helpful opportunities to increase reuse. One is a shift to selling service or performance rather than the object and then it’s the producers or their agents who have the chance to see benefits in repairable, refurbishable, long lasting and upgradeable models. It’s not easy to do from a business perspective brought up on "more, cheaper, faster and forget it", but a circular economy starts at the question of where is the point of sale? If the answer is that the sale is not the object but what service the object provides, then many things get a lot easier.

Of all the actors with some kind of stake in the ambition to give IT products a longer lifespan, is there any in particular you think needs to step up?

The producers and their business models are most important to me, plus regulators making sure that the material’s full cost of extraction, production and dealing with e-waste is paid. Everything boils down to business opportunity. There’s an opportunity for businesses to close the loop, slow the flow and narrow the resource palette.

E-scrap - seven Giza pyramids every year

2018-10-29

The volumes of yearly produced e-scrap are huge and increasing. Which highlights the huge sustainability value in the ITAD business.

Accentuating deep worries around climate change, a new report casts light on the growing global mountain of e-scrap. In 2016, the global population generated 41 million metric tons of e-scrap, according to the recent study conducted by a research group at the Harokopio university in Athens, Greece. This is seven times as much as the total weight of the great pyramid of Giza, standing 147 metres high in Egypt’s desert, and in line with earlier estimates from the United Nations Environment Program.

The yearly volume of 41 million metric tons is predicted to have increased by more than 30 percent to 54 million metric tons by 2025, the two main drivers behind this increase being an ever growing consumption and population growth. Western Europe and the U.S. generate by far the most e-scrap per person but Asia leads by sheer volume.

The Greek study makes a great effort to ascertain the huge and growing global volumes of e-scrap, but does not focus on ways to attack the problem. The research group simply concludes that ”through the exploitation of e-scrap the consumption of natural resources is reduced and there is creation of jobs and growth worldwide”.

Today, the major part of the world’s e-scrap ends up in landfills. This is a serious global ecological threat. At the same time, the processes to recycle electronics is complicated, expensive and far from perfect. Therefore, adding life to second hand electronics products constitutes a valuable addition to sustainability. At the same time, ITAD is a good business model and valuable creator of future jobs.

Eco-friendly Fairphone expands

2018-10-29

The Dutch startup behind the modular, sustainable phone Fairphone has finished a successful crowdfunding campaign, raising 2.5 million Euro. This is considerably more than the target of 1 million. The company is now planning to launch a new phone and expand its market presence in Europe.

The Fairphone is the result of strict ethical look at social and environmental issues in the supply chain, regarding everything from working conditions to sustainable mining. It is also modular, which makes it easy to service, upgrade and, finally, re-cycle.

https://www.fairphone.com/en/

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