Reducing e-waste through innovative warranty management 

Electronic goods powered by digital technology have become indispensable in our daily lives. They also play a crucial role in sustainable development, offering new tools and innovations to help achieve all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, from education to healthcare, and trade to sanitation. Despite these positives for people, these developments have a significant impact on our planet. There’s a serious environmental downside of increased digital consumption: global e-waste is surging. And it’s a challenge that needs urgent attention.

What exactly is e-waste?

E-waste is defined as ‘waste generated from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE)’ (The WEEE Regulations, 2014), encompassing a wide variety of products from large household appliances such as washing machines, to information and communication technologies like computers and mobile phones.  According to the UN, e-waste is the fastest-growing domestic waste stream globally. As much as 50 million tonnes of e-waste is produced globally every year, weighing more than all the commercial airliners ever flown. In 2019, a record 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide, up 21 per cent in just five years. This surge in e-waste is driven by increasing consumption rates of electronics, shorter product life cycles and limited options for repair. Without collective action, the UN warns that the amount of e-waste will more than double by 2050, to 120 million tonnes annually.

What does this mean for our planet?

Less than 20% of all e-waste is actually recycled, according to PACE. The remaining 80% is either dumped into landfills or being informally recycled, to the detriment of the environment and the health of the workers processing it. Beyond these health and pollution impacts, improper management of e-waste is leading to a considerable loss of scarce and valuable raw materials, including precious metals and gold. According to the UN, as much as 7% of the world’s gold may currently be contained in e-waste, with 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore.

What can be done about it?

The need is crystal clear for a revamped ecosystem, in which resources are reused in ways that minimise environmental impacts and create decent, sustainable jobs. In recent years, we’ve seen growing awareness of the issue of e-waste, and new systems-level solutions are gaining attention. These include durable product design, environmentally friendly electronics recycling, and urban mining to extract metals and minerals from e-waste. What is missing is a new approach to warranties, one in which consumers can play a huge part and manufacturers can assist in solving the e-waste problem.

How is iWarranty contributing to the solution?

When it comes to e-waste, making a difference in our day-to-day lives starts with the products we own.  The problem is that existing paper-based warranties and manual claims aren’t easily accessible or user-friendly. The time and frustration spent physically storing, managing and locating paper-based warranties often leads us as consumers to replace items too often, too soon, and too casually. In 2018, 1.2 million tons of electronic devices were sold in the UK.

Not only does this mean wasting money, but it also means contributing to e-waste. Studies show that in the UK alone, consumers spent £423 million per year replacing items without checking if they were still covered by warranty first. This e-waste problem is significant in the UK, partly due to consumer habits, but other systemic matters need to be addressed, too. The result is that the UK produces 24.9kg a person a year e-waste, which is 10kg more than the EU average, according to the Basel Action Network.

That’s where iWarranty comes into play. iWarranty contributes to a self-sustaining circular economy by rethinking and redesigning warranty management. iWarranty focuses on convenience: from the day you purchase your product, if something goes wrong, you can make a claim at any time, from anywhere.  You can easily access nearby repair providers, or use our easy re-sell/recycle marketplace to put your products into the hands of those who truly need it. By using iWarranty, you’re contributing to making our world more eco-friendly and sustainable by reducing electronic waste and preserving natural resources.

At a global level, we’re at an inflection point. By taking stock of your product warranties, you can contribute to turning the e-waste crisis into an opportunity. Download iWarranty to join us in creating a more sustainable world.