Waste streams are expanding at a skyrocketing pace as economies advance with rapid industrialization, better standards of living and technological innovations.
The surging use of electronic equipment to simplify consumer lifestyles poses a threat to human and environmental safety as products are designed with a greater focus on affordability over longevity. As a result, 2020 generated 53.5 million tonnes of e-waste.
And, critically, 78% of this waste remains uncollected and undocumented, raising concerns about the efficient handling of end-of-life products, according to Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis on the global waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling market.
Driven by strict policies to build a circular economy and a push toward the implementation of extended producer responsibility (EPR) in developed and emerging economies, the global WEEE recycling market is estimated to garner a revenue of US$4.68 billion by 2025 from $3.85 billion in 2020, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.9%.
“The alarming rise in e-waste volumes is forcing manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to explore new business models. This has brought circular electronics under the spotlight wherein manufacturers focus on developing and promoting the use of recycled and refurbished electrical and electronic products,” said Kiravani Emani, energy and environment research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
“Additionally, circular economy and the concept of zero waste are fundamental to build a safe, resilient, and sustainable environment, and this underscores the significance of repair, reuse, and recycle of products, all of which lead to a reduction in waste and e-waste.”
Emani added: “With EPR policies being instrumental, leading electrical and electronic equipment enterprises are offering buybacks, charging advanced recycling fees (paid by the consumer upfront during product purchase), and selling refurbished products as part of their business strategies to improve product lifecycle and gain a stronger foothold in the market. Further, as emerging countries like India, China and parts of Africa are considering adopting EPR policies, these new business models are likely to witness sharper growth in the next five to seven years.”
Strategies for sustainability
As developed and developing economies focus on recovery and reuse of rare and highly valuable metals and minerals, market participants should focus on five strategies to encourage sustainability and tap growth prospects in e-waste management:
- Shift toward electronics-as-a-service to promote zero waste and create new avenues for revenue: Leading IT and electronic companies should establish recycling centers for in-house products and fund start-ups that promote recycle and reuse of electronic products.
- Focus on market consolidation to strengthen in-house recycling expertise: Market consolidation will enable waste management enterprises to expand their footprint into untapped markets and position themselves as one-stop e-waste recycling solution providers.
- Preserve valuable metals and promote a circular economy: Partnerships with automation and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) vendors will enable the development of advanced recovery technologies to track, trace, extract, monitor, and recover e-waste and its components.
- Progress toward refurbished and reused EEE: Companies should develop a cleaner alternative to handle e-waste and eliminate the process of burning to recover metals, which releases toxic and carcinogenic substances.
- Streamline portfolio to focus on IT asset disposal (ITAD) services: Stakeholders along the entire waste management value chain should develop patented software for ITAD services to strengthen their market presence and capitalize on the limited entry barriers.