Have you ever thought scavenging can support around 1% of the urban population in African, Asian, and Latin American cities? Do you know scavenging contributes nearly US $1 billion to economy in Mumbai, India a year in the recovery of materials and the manufacture of products? (See Global Recycling Supply Chains and Waste Picking in Developing Countries)
When asked the above questions, most people target the first reflection at recycling due to the shock caused by the hidden huge waste and contamination. In fact, with technology development and electronic products increasingly upgrading, governments worldwide has caught the importance of recycling of electronic supply chain, and they have issued legislations, such as EU mandates electronics manufacturers to take their used products back from customers (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment).
Recently, after Susan published The Supply Chain Must Embrace Recycling on EBN, the recycling of electronic supply chain stirs another wave. Among the comments, most people support the urgency of supply chain recycling for different reasons. In this article, I want to stress the challenge brought by accelerated component obsolescence to recycling of supply chain.
Driven by the technology development and increased user experience, electronic products is upgrading at an unprecedentedly fast speed. In 2000, 240,000 EOL notices were issued by suppliers; in 2005, the figure reached 1.6 million; and the future will see faster speed. But it is a fact the escalated parts are usually the key components, the application of new parts to enhance user experience and introducing new products to market undoubtedly would caused heavy waste on the old and outdated products. This case is especially prevalent in young consumers.
Owning the latest smartphone and Tablet PC has become the fashion icons among the young in today’s society. Increasing a new function or change, enlarging the screen size, longer battery life, slightly lower power consumption, etc all will brow a replacement wave. As for the obsolete products, I don’t know their fate, maybe thrown into the garget, or passed to relatively outdated parents. When in college, I have usually heard that someone displace 5 advanced phones during four years of college life. I entered college in 2008. For current university students, I foresee much more frequent replacement in mobile devices.
In addition to mobile devices, waste and urgency for recycling electronics also happens on home appliance. The price falling and government subsidy enables more home appliances available to customers, especially those in emerging markets. For instance, in 2009, China began the nationwide home-appliance-going-to-rural-regions subsidy activities. Removing subsidy, people only have to spend around 1000 yuan for one air conditioner or washing machine. So whether for those already have home appliance or not, they all get a new one. Can you image the waste?
And in the future, a large amount of old meters will also move to end due to large-scale usage of smart grid; other fields including automotive and medical are also phasing out products. Electronic supply chain must embrace recycling.
Although the technology progress and the resulting accelerated electronic component obsolescence are the murder, this phenomenon is inevitable and necessary for the moving-forward society. But as the old saying goes “Every thing has two sides”, the serious waste and pollution is the other side. Achieving recycling of electronic supply chain is what can should and must do. Component obsolescence highlights the urgency of recycling electronic products.