The very first electronic products manufactured contained massive amounts of plastics, metals, chemicals and other substances. The long-term properties of many of these materials and substances were not fully understood and during the 1990’s, researchers began to investigate how these materials broke down at the end of their lifespan.
Electronic goods contain numerous precious and semi-precious metals as well as several elements that need to be mined from the earth. Conservation of earth’s precious resources is a fundamental issue that all humans face and this means the requirement for effective recycling and eco-conscious manufacturing is vital. The keys to conservation aren’t complicated – reduce, reuse and recycle. These fundamental principles are applied by Samsung to product design with a system of circular resource management – by mapping out the lifecycle for the products developed.
Justin Hume, Marketing Director of Samsung South Africa, says, “Samsung aims to minimise its products’ environmental impact by maximising resource efficiency from assembly to eventual disposal. This entails reusing parts, utilising recycled packaging and plastics and increasing the recyclability of new products’ components for later use.”
Technology is almost constantly in flux, which means that a device or product that was cutting edge last year could be practically obsolete this year. Because of this, there are many electronic products discarded in favour of newer models or upgrades. But what happens to products that are no longer needed? When it comes to upgrading a cell phone or television, for example, there are numerous opportunities to donate goods that are still in good working order to charities or those less fortunate. But what about products that aren’t in good working order?
If an electronic product is disposed of properly, it will go to an e-waste facility for processing. The first thing that happens is it gets dismantled. Then the various parts are placed in sorting bins. From there, data (where relevant, such as in a cell phone or computer) is destroyed, precious metals are extracted and plastics are readied for recycling. Most cell phones contain precious metals, chemical elements and minerals, including copper, gold, lead, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, coltan, as well as plastics that can be recycled to save energy and resources that would otherwise be required to mine or manufacture.
There are several e-waste facilities in South Africa, many of which belong to the e-Waste Association of South Africa (EWASA), an organisation that works with stakeholders to establish a sustainable and environmentally sound e-waste management system for the country.
Samsung makes use of Desco, an accredited e-waste recycling facility. Anyone wanting to dispose of their electronic goods can make use of the drop-off bins located in Makro or hand the device or product to a salesperson at Incredible Connection or HiFi Corporation stores. Alternatively, there is a list of electronic waste facilities on the EWASA website (www.ewasa.org). While a number of facilities currently exist in South Africa, there is a growing requirement for more, which creates an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs to own and operate businesses that meet the growing demand.
In order to tread more gently on the environment, Samsung has reduced its use of a range of hazardous substances commonly found in electronics manufacturing over the past several years. As a result, products including Samsung’s latest TVs and smartphones are free of widely used but potentially harmful substances including PVC, a common synthetic plastic, flame retardants such as TBBP-A and BFRs and phthalates.
“Samsung’s commitment to reducing its devices’ environmental impact is responsible for QLED TV’s ground-breaking cadmium-free design. Samsung’s Vision 2020 centres around the environment, creating products and designs that both enrich peoples’ lives and contribute to a socially responsible, sustainable future,” concludes Hume.
While innovative technology enables companies to reduce the utilisation of potentially hazardous or precious resources to manufacture goods, there’s still a mountain of products out there that contain elements that are potentially harmful to the environment and can be recycled. To do your part, ensure you dispose of your defunct electronic goods safely and responsibly.