Sustainability: Conserve Precious Metals through Efficient Remanufacturing Processes

Pressure is building on hi-tech manufacturers to stop the mining of precious metals and find a way to reverse the negative impact on our environment. Within the next 20 years, our mineral reserves will be mostly depleted – unless we start immediately to turn things around. The question is how are manufacturers going to make the necessary changes in order to save our environment, reduce the rising costs of these precious metals and avoid potential liability from the disposal of their products? The answer is to have a green sustainability program in effect.

With more and more hi-tech products utilizing irreplaceable high-profile metals, as well as lesser known minerals, concern is growing that soon we will no longer have these minerals. States are beginning to address how products are affecting our landfills, not only in space but also in emissions from methane gas and the leaching of materials into our waters and infrastructure. Electrical manufacturers, especially, are going to be significantly impacted by the upcoming trends in e-waste management.

Annually, 400 million units of e-waste are sent to our landfills for disposal. There is growing concern these products will leave a carbon imprint that could have serious effects on our climate, air and water supplies.

In 2003, California was the first state to pass e-waste legislation. Since this bill was passed, the state has processed nearly 1 billion pounds of e-waste to 60 recyclers and 600 collectors. Rhode Island is charging the manufacturers for cleanup of its landfills, even though the manufacturers are not dumping the products – it’s the consumer. Currently, 24 states have, or will soon have, laws on the books outlawing the disposal of e-waste into landfills.

Despite the growth in the e-recycling industry, most electronics in the U.S. will still end up in landfills. According to the E.P.A., in 2009 more than 82% of electronics that have been discarded ended up incinerators or in landfills.

What can a manufacturer do to ensure they will not be charged for the irresponsibility of consumers? They can start by re-evaluating the way they process their products and returns, and initiate a reverse logistics policy that includes the outsourcing of their returned products to a facility that repairs, refurbishes or recycles by harvesting parts at the end of their life cycle.

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