The global electronic waste (e-waste) crisis is expected to rise from 53 mega tonnes (Mt) to an incredible 74 Mt by 2030. This is a global challenge, one that can be addressed through a range of means by government, business, and individuals. A crisis that will require multi-stakeholder collaboration and both simple and dynamic solutions to address the linear, take-make-waste, model that global society largely operates within. Of all the areas that are key, knowledge sharing is one that holds the most promise in raising awareness and teaching people about solutions to address the e-waste crisis.
It Is More Than Just Awareness
Comsol, a manufacturer, importer and distributor of small electronic products including cables, chargers, power banks and adaptors partnered with a globally recognised education platform, COOL.ORG (formerly Cool Australia). The online platform provides engaging and informative resources to over 200,000 teachers for free.
Together, Comsol and COOL.ORG, created a first-of-its-kind education course to address the fact that e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world.
The course, Closing The E-Loop, provides three core learning intentions:
- Identify the global e-waste crisis;
- Understand the social and environmental impacts of e-waste; and
- Investigate solutions to the e-waste crisis.
The partnership saw the design and development of 10 in-depth lessons aligning with the Australian school curriculum – six for years 9/10 Geography and four for years 9/10 Design & Technology. These topics were selected as the primary target group due to the teaching syllabus’ focus. In addition, COOL.ORG’s online platform, that provides open-source education material in Australia and globally, provides the opportunity for others in younger and older student age groups, adults and people outside of Australia to access the valuable content for free.
The course provides a portfolio of information packs that enable extra learning for students and teachers who want or need additional content to understand the issues and solutions to the e-waste crisis in combination with the 10 teacher lesson plans. Importantly these areas focus on providing a toolkit of solutions that is enhanced by the third key pillar of the course that is driven by multi-stakeholder collaboration.
Addressing the Global Crisis: Collaboration and Solutions
There is a great level of convenience and benefits to the lives of individuals around the world with access to electrical and electronic products, however due to the take-make-waste system that most of the world operates in there are a range of detrimental impacts.
On people, inequality, forced labour and health risks can occur. On the planet, resource loss, pollution and even fires from discarded batteries has the potential to happen. Businesses need to reassess their operations and their purpose because economically, mismanaging valuable electronic resources costs an estimated $57 Billion USD annually. Fortunately, there is a solution to this situation that business, government and individuals can be a part of – the circular economy. This method seeks to reduce waste through a range of factors including reimaging designs, reuse, repairing and repurposing, and recycling, among other options.
To accelerate the transition to a circular economy through the use of engaging and informative resources, collaboration was key.
It enabled the team at Comsol to interview 38 industry experts from 35 unique organisations, across 36 individual interviews that have a short 2 minute version and a longer 5-10 minute version of engaging and informative discussion. These expert insights provide a range of solutions that viewers can learn from and implement in their own lives.
Defining Purpose and the Cost of Inaction
Like many other manufacturers, resellers, distributors and retailers in Australia and globally Comsol has operated within the traditional business model since the early 1990s. However, the team pivoted toward more sustainable operations due to customer feedback: establishing a step-by-step approach to sustainability that aims to establish a sustainable environmental and socially supporting ecosystem for technology products and services.
A sustainable transition can, and needs to be done, by businesses globally. The cost of inaction is too high.
It is because of the realisation of those costs from a take-make-waste model that has driven the transition toward a purpose-driven approach that incorporates the key pillar of education into their operations. Those social, environmental and economic impacts add up over time but can be addressed through forward-thinking strategy. This is a journey that all businesses can be a part of in similar and/or their own unique ways that benefit their customer base and broader still, to the communities, region and market that they operate in.
A Question of Value
How can this positive effect be articulated? As an individual there are clear benefits for those communities, regions and markets by making actionable decisions that sit outside of a financial transaction but from a traditional business perspective other drivers need to be included. Brand recognition is a clear option that can be a driver when a growing consumer base is demanding more sustainable products, services and knowledge.
Education is an investment in both the people making purchase decisions today and those that will be more sustainably minded tomorrow.
Those drivers that sit outside of a financial transaction will be key to business sustainability in the future. People learning about the e-waste crisis, the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis today will be the ones that businesses will be relying on more and more in the future as those concerned stakeholders form a larger portion of the market.
This is a key reason why partnerships that have been made throughout Comsol’s and COOL.ORG’s project are focused on value outside of the traditional scope. It is a terrific illustration of global leaders making a change to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future that all stakeholders need to be a part of for a collectively sustainable tomorrow.
What Gives You Hope for the Future in Terms of Sustainability?
This new movement of circularity is being driven by organisations, such as Comsol, providing Sustainable Electronic Solutions to the masses. Importantly the collaboration with other industry leaders throughout the education course highlights that they are now one of many.
“When we invest in each other to help each other grow to become more sustainable, then we’ll all succeed together.” -- Schneider Electric interview for Closing The E-Loop.
Organisations that have reshaped their purpose to address issues that matter to them in new ways that may have been unimaginable in the past. Providing options to a new generation of people who are experiencing the first hand impacts of global crises, but now enabled to learn and implement solutions through this new education material. Simple and dynamic solutions that can reshape tomorrow in a wide range of ways.
“The more we can create meaningful employment in the regions and demonstrate what we’re doing, no smoke and mirrors, new jobs that align with our personal values will empower this whole new industry called circular economy.” -- Close The Loop Group interview for Closing The E-Loop.
It really is about looking to the future by learning from the past in a step-by-step transition to sustainability. A movement that will bring value driven change from new, innovative, engaging resources including Closing The E-Loop. A change that matters to every person, every business and every government on the planet because of the interconnected nature of the world - that global community is ready for a sustainable future.
“Looking now at the way that young people, businesses and all sorts of organisations are really in-depth engaging in this issue, they’re realising that the linear economy can no longer continue this way and they need to transition to circularity.” -- Circular Electronics Partnership interview for Closing The E-Loop.