How is the battle against e-waste going on the global stage? What are some key initiatives to stem the tide of retired electronics and improve corporate electronic recycling? Although the challenge is huge, progress is being made. And your business has a crucial role to play.

As we look back at 2021, a few electronic recycling trends, in particular, are gaining steam. 

The right to repair shows progress

A key measure to reduce electronic waste is to facilitate the ease of repairs. Forty years ago, everyone repaired their electronics and appliances. Then, as a result of cheap and abundant manufacturing, a toss-out culture took hold. But that reality may once again be changing — and it’s a trend worth keeping an eye on. 

In a notable reversal of its restrictive repair policies, Apple announced in November it will make parts and repair manuals available to individual customers, and not just certified repair shops, starting in early 2022. Microsoft, following shareholder pressure, has also agreed to take concrete steps to enable independent repair of its devices. The announcement was considered a first-of-its-kind victory for the right to repair movement. 

Green Biz has a great summary of other signs of progress for this effort that will continue to build momentum in 2022: 

The Right to Repair movement saw traction across the pond, as repairability scores for electronics rolled out in France, appliances gained repair protections in Britain, and the EU proposed universal charging cords for smartphones.

Meanwhile on our side of the Atlantic: The first electronics right to repair bill was passed in New York state, a national repair bill was filed in congress, and President Joe Biden signed an executive order to ensure repairability for farming equipment. The Federal Trade Commission even weighed in with an exhaustive 55-page report, rejecting manufacturers’ excuses for imposed repair restrictions.

Lithium-ion battery recycling is on the rise

Although the vast majority of global lithium-ion battery waste is currently not recycled, a lot is changing, quickly. The materials are simply too valuable to go to waste. Spurred by a huge increase in demand for electric vehicles, the lithium-ion battery industry is turning to recyclers. There are now, according to IEEE Spectrum, about a hundred companies worldwide that recycle lithium-ion batteries or plan to do so. 

The United States produces just 1% of the raw and component materials for EV batteries. But recyclers are stepping up. In the fall of 2021, four lithium-ion recyclers saw a collective $255 million worth of investment and another completed a merger. 

Waste Dive reports

Over the course of just one week in September, four battery recyclers with U.S. operations announced collectively raising more than $255 million in new funding to expand their operations. American Battery Technology Company raised $39.1 million to support a new Nevada facility. 

Redwood Materials announced a $50 million investment from Ford to integrate battery recycling into the automaker’s supply chain. Li-Cycle received a $100 million investment from Koch Strategic Platforms to build out new recycling centers in North America and elsewhere. Battery Resourcers raised $70 million in funding to expand operations to Europe.

Refurbished electronics are gaining popularity

Sales of refurbished electronics have boomed during the pandemic. The nationwide laptop shortage, supply chain issues, and massive demand for home office electronics made consumers turn their attention to resale markets. A number of online marketplaces that sell certified used electronics saw record growth in 2020. And this electronic recycling trend appears to continue into 2022. 

Modern Retail notes:

Now, these brands and marketplaces that sell large amounts of refurbished electronics are looking to retain customers by widening their inventory selection and pledging more stringent quality control. 

Consumers have, at the same time, become more open to buying refurbished electronics. The lower price point and realization that used electronics can offer the same performance as brand-new ones play roles in the growth. As does increased awareness of the impact of e waste on the environment.  

European Business Review comments

Environmentally responsible consumers become increasingly concerned that certain buying behaviors impact the planet negatively and learn to appreciate refurbished products. By buying refurbished products, consumers stay motivated to be green and make our planet better.

It’s indeed an exciting time for all of us in the electronics recycling industry. Despite the massive challenges ahead, these electronic recycling trends show the efforts underway to reduce waste, reuse electronics, and recycle valuable materials. You can join this impactful movement too. Contact us today to start recycling your business electronics. 

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