The grueling summer heat in Austin is ending, and the fall breeze is finally starting to creep into the forecast. I love the fall because it has always had its share of traditions. Whether it is carving pumpkins – or going apple picking – or dressing up for Halloween. For me personally, the fall brings an abundance of events in which to celebrate and be thankful, birthdays, anniversaries and of course family gatherings during holidays.
Our planet also embraces traditions. As we begin this journey into the 4th Industrial Revolution, electronics are allowing us to celebrate these traditions in new ways. Whether it’s posting about them on social media or taking pictures and videos to be shared or streamed live with loved ones. But as electronics continue to evolve with new devices, what are you doing with your old ones? Do you hold onto them? Recycle them? Or throw them directly into the landfill? Well, the odds are saying that you are not recycling your used electronics responsibly.
Meet the fastest growing domestic waste stream in the world
Today is International E-Waste Day – a day designed to bring more awareness of e-waste recycling and encourage consumers to recycle their e-waste. For those who aren’t familiar with this term, e-waste is electronic waste – so think of the cell phone you used in the early 2000’s, or the computer that you used in college that is probably sitting in your basement or garage.
As of today, e-waste is the fastest growing domestic waste stream in the world. Based on recent findings by the World Economic Forum, the world’s population discarded around 50 million tons of e-waste last year – that is equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers! And if current trends continue, it’s estimated that by 2050, that number will grow to more than 120 million tons. Yet each year, only 20% of that e-waste gets responsibility recycled.
Think about those facts for a second. Only 20% of the world’s fastest growing waste stream is being recycled responsibly. So, what are some ways that we can rally together to combat it?
Standing up and becoming e-waste evangelists
For starters, there is no one person that can solve this problem – it’s going to take a global commitment to everyone becoming e-waste evangelists. As one of the largest technology providers in the world, at Dell Technologies, we’re committed to protecting our customers and our planet. That’s why we provide convenient recycling solutions around the world that protect our customers data, safeguard their brand reputation, reuse precious materials and responsibly recycle e-waste.
We’ve taken great strides in our outreach to customers. In 2004, we launched Dell Reconnect, in partnership with Goodwill® Industries, to provide free technology recycling to consumers in the US. Dell Reconnect accepts any brand of computer equipment, in any condition, at over 2,000 participating Goodwill locations. This program also helps support jobs and skills training for individuals with disabilities in our communities. We then use a variety of our vehicles and channels to communicate with customers about responsible recycling options. For example, we developed Co-Op websites with our Goodwill partners, so communities can easily learn about the Dell Reconnect program and find locations to conveniently drop off their electronics.
Thinking globally to fight e-waste is also critical – especially when you bring businesses into the fold. Our Asset Resale and Recycling Services (ARR) provides our business customers with pick-up logistics, data protection and responsible retirement of any brand of owned or leased hardware, plus detailed reporting of each system’s journey from collection to final disposition. In FY19, ARR returned more than $23 million in resale value to our commercial customers. This all aligns nicely with other innovations we’re working on because it ties into the circular economy, which is our north star when it comes to sustainability strategy – all materials are reused or recycled responsibly.
Closing the loop by thinking circular with plastics and other waste streams
Our north star has always been the circular economy – finding ways to use recycled-content and waste as a resource while ensuring our products are easy to recycle. Take, for example, our closed-loop process. In it, the plastics collected from programs like Dell Reconnect and ARR get recycled into new computers. We’re also taking rare earth magnets from old hard drives and reforming them into new magnets for new hard drives.
We even use reclaimed waste materials, like carbon fiber from the aerospace industry to make laptop bases or polymers from recycled windshields as the protective lining for backpacks and carrying cases. We also remove wastes from the environment by using ocean-bound plastics for packaging or the captured particulate matter from diesel generators that gets refined into ink.
As we close out International E-waste Day and look towards the future, we’re thinking circular. That is what our new 2030 social impact vision is being built around and what we strive to achieve. We’re ready to play our role, are you?