By, Ravi Neeladri, CEO, Cerebra Green
Ever wonder why we keep reading about a circular economy and what that means? Here’s a simple explanation of what it entails. A circular economy is one where we, the inhabitants of the Earth, not only take raw materials and consume them but also practise giving back. Unlike a linear economy, wherein we create products and throw them away as soon as their single lifecycle is over, a circular economy has numerous benefits. It is a production and consumption paradigm that emphasizes the sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling of existing resources and goods for as long as possible. As the raw materials available in our environment are not infinite, it becomes crucial for individuals and businesses to regenerate products as much as possible to save our resources.
Why should one care?
It plays a huge part in tackling the issue of drastic climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing global warming. It also allows the lifecycle of products to be prolonged. By following a circular economy, we can curtail waste generation to a great extent, thereby reducing the ill effects on the natural ecosystems.
We are all aware that electronic gadgets and electrical equipment, ranging from home appliances to small solar panel networks or smartphones and other electronic items, are integral to our day-to-day lives. However, what most of us don’t realise is that there are large amounts of wasted resources throughout their entire value chain, from the extraction of valuable ores (iron, copper, gold, etc.) included in the composition of electronic products to their production, transportation, retail sale, consumption, and elimination from the circuit, the system generates many adverse effects and leaves a large ecological footprint.
Electronic and electrical equipment that is discarded contains potentially harmful elements, polluting the environment and posing health concerns to individuals who work in the recycling industry. Every year, 50 million tons of electronic and electrical garbage (E-waste) are created worldwide, which amounts to the weight of all commercial aeroplanes ever manufactured.
Waste management’s role in a circular economy
E-waste management is also an essential aspect of a circular economy. Essentially, when a device reaches the end of its useful life, the materials should be recycled to reduce the waste and increase its value. In fact, the government issued the Electronic Waste Rules in 2011 to simplify E-waste management, based on the notion of extended producer responsibility (EPR). It covers the 6R’s, namely, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Remanufacture, Recycle, and Recover for E-waste management. For example, a laptop can be recycled, and minerals extracted from the device can be used to manufacture other electronic devices. The same laptop can also be refurbished, its lifecycle extended and reused.
Another benefit of refurbishing electronic devices or other products is that it provides people from lower-income backgrounds access to products that might otherwise not be affordable. It is becoming imperative for us to begin moving towards a circular economy to sustain biodiversity and natural resources for generations to come.