It’s a well known fact that the sustainability trend has been in full force and continuing its’ growth for the last few decades. Increased social awareness, and a commitment by large corporations to make “green” a part of their core principles have made sustainability practices commonplace. One industry has been noticeably absent until recently -- electronics manufacturing. In a business where the lowest price often trumps all else, the electronics industry has been reluctant to make sustainability commonplace in their business practices, because after all, buying or manufacturing new product is usually the first option and typically the path of least resistance.
The Disruption by the Circular Economy
Enter the emergence of the Circular Economy. According to Wikipedia, “A circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimized by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops; this can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and upcycling.This is in contrast to a linear economy which is a 'take, make, dispose' model of production.”
The Circular Economy will eventually change the way modern manufacturing is viewed. With no negative impact to the end user, manufacturing for reuse fuses sustainable principles with consumer demands to deliver high quality goods that have the opportunity to make many life cycles prior to eventually being permanently recycled.
Electronics Manufacturers Slow to Adapt
One reason for the electronics industry’s lag to collectively adopt a circular approach is that there is very seldom a strategic plan to service their parts past a 5 year span. Planned obsolescence is inherent many manufacturer’s business models -- sell a consumer a product, warrant it for a couple years (if that) and force the sale of a current model, newly manufactured unit.
The progressing demand for sustainability will make this practice impossible over time but some a sure to continue to hang on. Collective values and buying habits of the American consumer are forcing the adoption of a Circular Economy that equips them with the ability to make purchases that they believe to be environmentally conscious.
Opportunity for Change
Cue an opportunity for electronics manufacturers to adopt Sustainable Manufacturing processes and endear themselves to their customers. Notwithstanding the financial and operational benefits of a company remanufacturing their products, buyers feel good about purchasing from an organization whose business practices are demonstratively considerate of their environmental impact. Holding on to the practices of the linear economy is futile as the demand for sustainable manufacturing continues to grow and the Circular Economy becomes the standard for manufacturing globally.