E-Waste and Sustainability: A Closer Look


Americans owned over 3 billion electronic devices in the year 2009, according to the University of Illinois. Doesn’t seem like a problem, but it is. Why? Because often 2/3 of these devices were taken out of service while they were still perfectly usable, for the the commercial life of electronics is much shorter than their functional lifespan.

The result? A huge build-up of electronic waste.

E-Waste: It’s a Big Deal

Every year Americans (to say nothing about the rest of the world) generate millions of tons of electronic waste. In the year 2007, according to Greenpeace, less than 13 percent of America’s electronic waste was recycled. The result? These cast-off electronics were thrown into landfills, or even worse: shipped overseas to third world locations where huge mounds of trash dominate the landscape because there are no laws regarding dumping.

In addition to the sheer quantity of electronic waste that’s generated, there’s the additional problem of the content of that waste. Electronics contain an unsavory cocktail of harmful substances, ranging from lead and mercury to arsenic and all sorts of chemical flame retardants. While these components are necessary to make electronics work, they’re also dangerous to the health of humans and the environment. These components can get released into the air if electronics are incinerated, or leeched into the soil and groundwater if the electronics are buried.

All this gets back to the question of sustainability. Can new electronics constantly be produced if there are fewer and fewer resources (such as the rare earth metals) needed to make them? Can electronic waste keep piling up and doing damage? With so much of a strain on resources it’s important to come up with a solution to these serious issues.

Recommerce: The Wave of the Future

There have been many solutions proposed to deal with the huge problem of electronic waste and sustainability. Perhaps the most successful solution to date has been the concept of recommerce.

Recommerce is the idea of re-purposing and re-selling electronics in order to keep them moving through the market in a meaningful way. If a customer buys a new set of phones, and then those phones get traded in for an upgrade, the old phones will be bought by the business and re-sold to other clients who desire a phone at a lower price point.

This solution works to the advantage of everyone in the market. Customers have options to re-sell their functioning technology when they upgrade to more recent products, and businesses gain access to whole new sectors of the market. What’s more, electronics that are recycled as part of a recommerce program stay out of landfills, and can be used to create new electronics. The end result is that more electronic waste stays out of landfills, and does no harm to people or the environment.

A Green Answer That Generates Big Profits

For a business that wants to be both profitable and responsible, it’s important to consider instituting a buyback program with clients. A guaranteed buyback program means that clients will be more likely to buy new equipment from the business because they’ll be able to sell it back used at a later date. The business can then re-sell the used equipment, making more profits and doing a great deal to help reduce the amount of e-waste buildup. It’s a win-win situation for all persons involved, and it can be just the boost a business needs to exceed its own expectations.

For more information about how you can institute a recommerce program, contact us today.

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Matthew Roldan

Matthew is the Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer at Sourcely. He has owned and operated several small businesses and has helped 1000's of SMB's find success online while working as a consultant for GoDaddy.com.