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Growing environmental concerns of increasing electronic waste

Growing environmental concerns of increasing electronic waste

The increased use of electronic devices has led to an incredible amount of e-waste that merits urgent attention

Innovation and lower costs have created an insatiable human appetite for electronic devices.

The digital revolution, in recent years, has gone into overdrive, which has led consumers to purchase additional – and mostly new – electronic devices. The outdated or extra ones offer no value, and are often jettisoned. This has led to an accumulation of electronic waste (e-waste). While a digitally connected world has unprecedented virtues and warrants the ubiquitous presence of electronic devices, it is, unfortunately, helping create an escalating torrent of waste.

The numbers back the claim: the world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year – valued at over $62.5bn – outweighing all commercial aircraft ever constructed, a UN report in 2019 revealed.

Less than 20 per cent of the e-waste is formally recycled, with 80 per cent either dumped in a landfill or recycled informally, exacerbating the impact on the health of workers and the environment, a report by the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy and the UN E-Waste Coalition suggests.

Furthermore, e-waste in landfill contaminates ground resources, putting in peril food supply systems and water sources. Given pressing environmental concerns, the electronics ecosystem warrants a reboot.

While governments worldwide have intensified recycling efforts, regional governments have also kept pace with their initiatives. Locally, the UAE government is taking steps to meet its target of diverting 75 per cent of municipal solid waste away from landfill by 2021.

However, waste accumulation and its implications call for wider participation from multiple stakeholders to devise initiatives that reuse products in novel ways for greater value.

UAE-based recommerce initiative Cartlow is keen on doing just that.

“Cartlow offers a solution for retailers and distributors enabling them to liquidate their aged, returned, and non-moving stock, instead of discarding it into landfills. Through this programme, we focus on extending the life of products by repairing, refurbishing, and reselling the used or aged products to customers. Therefore, we reduce waste and carbon emissions by finding a new home for these products rather than them ending in a landfill,” Mohammad Sleiman, Cartlow’s founder and CEO says.

Customers can order pre-owned, refurbished, open-box and clearance products through Cartlow’s mobile app. Since its launch, Cartlow has sold over half a million items and hosts 500,000 active users per month, its CEO confirms.

“We intend to reduce the environmental footprint when shopping for products. When old devices are disposed of, and when new devices require manufacturers to deplete more of the earth’s raw materials, unsustainability and pollution arise. Every time you buy a used or a refurbished product, you are engaging in recycling. Every time a sale happens on our platform, the customer is unconsciously taking a big step in helping us eliminate unsustainable practices. We want all our customers to have a positive change on the planet,” Sleiman concludes.

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