SERI: The Future of Sustainable Electronics

E-waste is a continuously growing problem in the tech world. With approximately 44.7 million tons of gadgets and electronics thrown into the trash every year, it is up to tech companies and organizations to counter the negative impact of the toxication of landfills.

WHAT IS E-WASTE?

E-waste is a shorthand term for electronic waste, such as discarded or unused phones, computers, televisions, or home appliances.

Most electronics wind up either in our cabinets or trash bins, not only proliferating our landfills with toxic elements but also wasting the inherent value contained within these devices, which still have the potential to be reused or, better yet, recycled. These minimize not only landfill waste but also the toxic components released from such electronics once they are thrown out.

However, it shouldn’t be easy to gobble up copious amounts of valuable electronics, especially if they still have little life left.

WHY IS E-WASTE A PROBLEM?

The problem with e-waste is that the electronic components and gadgets thrown into the landfill contain toxic substances; These include but are not limited to mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic, which contaminate our soil and water.

E-waste also comprises invaluable resources that are non-renewable: gold, aluminum, platinum, copper, silver, and cobalt.

Unsafe practices such as open-air burning and acid baths are used to gather valuable materials from electronic components, oozing toxic elements into the environment and exposing workers and the general public to high levels of contaminants.

As a result, handling used electronics or e-waste has become a serious global health concern for human health and the environment. These can result in permanent health conditions, such as neurological damage, and lead to unnecessary waste of such materials.

WHAT CAN WE DO INSTEAD?

Although recycling is an integral part of creating sustainable electronics, it is even more critical to ensure that the products are designed initially so that we can easily reuse and remanufacture them. We need to create sustainable electronics from the outset rather than trying to come up with sustainable solutions only after the fact.

In other words, recycling is not always the end-all-be-all when considering the sheer volume of yearly e-waste produced. There is a world of opportunities for sustainably designing products and building the bedrock of a restorative economy.

This transition is what is called a circular economy. Circular economy sheds light on a new way to transform our current economic system, giving us the right tools to deal with climate change, waste, and biodiversity loss. From the take-make-use-dispose system, we transform into a circular lifestyle; Every bit of life and usefulness of an electronic is exhausted to the fullest by taking old materials and making them the feedstock for creating newer ones.

In the current economy, products are made from materials from the Earth; however, these materials don’t get to return to where they came from, creating a linear process. However, in a circular economy, waste production is prevented in the first place by eliminating waste and pollution from the get-go and circulating products and materials at the highest value, transitioning to renewable energy and materials. This resiliency essentially benefits the health of the people and the environment.

SERI’S ROLE IN E-WASTE MANAGEMENT

Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the reuse and recycling of electronic products, has brought together disparate parts to provide genuine and everlasting change.

SERI has become the lone multi-stakeholder, and collaborative nonprofit organization focused on decreasing environmental and health risks posed by the toxic components found in electronic components, becoming the leading light in sustainable electronics, protecting people and the environment being their primary and utmost concern.

WHY SERI?

To counteract this global challenge created by electronics, SERI has set out to succeed in this endeavor through a series of strategies. These strategies are dependent on and bounded by strict environmental and worker health and safety regulations.

These regulations are based on the concept of “circular economy,” aiming to protect the planet’s health for the long term. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers that share these ideas and ambitions are needed in order to lead the world into a broader understanding of sustainability and the use of sustainable electronics.

SERI administers the R2 Certification Program with the help of a widely diverse and experienced Board consisting of recyclers, customers of recyclers, purchasing officials, certification bodies, government, nonprofit organizations, OEMs, and many more. This way, it is aware of the multi-dimensional challenges recycling electronics brings and, thus, can understand and incorporate economic, political, and sociological aspects into its solutions.

 However, as said before, sustainability is not only necessary towards the end of an electronics life. Taking responsibility and being aware of our decisions during an electronic’s life cycle is also essential. Thus, SERI ensures that sustainability occurs throughout the device’s lifespan and that there are always opportunities to make a positive difference.

WHAT IS R2 CERTIFICATION?

The US Environmental Protection Agency created the ‘Responsible Recycling Practices for Use in Accredited Certifications Programs’ (R2) Standard by assembling a multi-stakeholder process to create a market-based system for the presentation and advertisement of electronics recycling practices.

The R2 Certification program evaluates and monitors businesses on how they meet the R2 Standard. The program’s shared set of criteria rests upon recognizing responsible reuse and recycling of electronics, protecting our environment, health, and safety, and moving towards a more sustainable circular economy.

SERI PROGRAMS

Most people, organizations, and businesses worldwide have the opportunity to use their electronics responsibly. However, they don’t always know how. Below are some of the programs provided by SERI that you can check out to see how the concept of sustainable electronics can be sought after and shared amongst eager organizations and businesses looking for the best practices.

THE SERI IMPACT FUND

Through the SERI Impact Fund, SERI requests and oversees funding from various donors for impactful projects that aim to improve circularity and make way for sustainable electronics. These funds help create projects that build the ecosystem for sustainable electronics, producing a circular economy and, as a result, zero e-waste; some examples include the conversion of refurbishment facilities to sustainable energy and the chance to run scholarly research in the field of sustainability.

IEMN

The International E-waste Management Network (IEMN) comprises an international pool of environmental officials seeking to address the challenges of achieving a circular economy for sustainable electronics in order to decide on the best practices for e-waste management.

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