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Broken circuit: Why we need to work together to solve the e-waste crisis

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the amount of generate electronic waste is growing at an alarming rate. Just by 2030 the annual e-waste growth is expected to reach 75 million tons, which is almost double the amount compared to 16 years ago. E-waste, due to its complex material composition contains not only valuable resources, but also a variety of harmful substances. It poses a significant environmental threat when not treated properly. Unfortunately, the e-waste recycling process often lacks documentation, transparency and efficiency. Hence, e-waste is often shipped to developing nations where improper recycling poses a high risk to the environment and the population, as this is the economically more attractive option to a proper treatment within the borders of origin.

However, we believe that digitalisation produces significant opportunities that can help address these issues and offer solutions that benefit both the environment and the economy in a positive way.

Digitalisation can provide transparency and traceability in the e-waste management process. The use of blockchain technology can for example create an unchangeable digital record of every transaction made during the recycling process. This can help improve accountability and ensure that e-waste is handled in an environmentally responsible way within the borders of its originating country.

Apart from the environmental benefits, digitalisation can also create new revenue streams and improve the public image and attractiveness to employees. By embracing digital tools and infrastructure, recyclers, manufacturers, and collectors can improve the efficiency of their operations, reduce costs, and increase their revenue. One way this could be achieved is through AI-supported sorting and reporting throughout the recycling process, saving the recyclers time spent on weighing and documentation. Additionally, a strong commitment to sustainability helps attract and retain employees who are passionate about creating a more sustainable future.

This seems to be a win-win-win situation for everyone, so what is holding us back then? We believe the reason for that is the fact that the e-waste recycling infrastructure in Germany is so diverse and fragmented, which is why it can be challenging to offer a one-fits-all solution.

Therefore, it is essential for policymakers, recyclers, manufacturers, and collectors to team up and incentivize investments in digital processes. Collaboration, creativity, and innovation are necessary to create a more responsible and sustainable approach to e-waste management in Germany.

Let’s sum it up: digitalisation offers a promising solution to the growing problem of e-waste. Its potential to improve transparency, traceability, and efficiency in the e-waste recycling process, and to create new revenue streams, makes it an attractive option. However, it will take concerted effort from all stakeholders such as politicians, recyclers, manufacturers and collectors to invest in digital processes and work together to create new and creative solutions that can address the challenges posed by e-waste, ultimately making it a circular resource in the future.


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