ICT electronic waste (e-waste) is a major global challenge. There is a growing trend amongst South African companies to embrace ways to reduce their environmental footprint impact and to take steps where possible, to adjust their culture and business practices accordingly.
The ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ philosophy is steadily increasing within South African companies, as stakeholders across the supply chain consider the overall effect of e-waste on the environment. Effective waste disposal is often dependent on local government programmes and a robust value chain that ensures that a company’s recycling efforts have the desired outcome and that they can be assured that, every year, less and less of their waste ends up in landfill sites.
However, uncertainty still exists around exactly how disposal takes place. Media reports, for example, have exposed practices whereby the Western world sends e-waste to dump sites in Africa, where components are burned in local communities, releasing harmful toxins, to retrieve valuable materials such as steel, copper and gold.
Demand for electronics is unlikely to slow down. In 2014, the world produced over 41 800 000 metric tons of e-waste and this amount is predicted to grow at a rate of four to five percent annually, making this another growing, rather than diminishing, threat to sustainability.
Arrow Altech Distribution’s joint venture partner, USA-based Arrow Electronics Inc, has a business division – Arrow Value Recovery Services – that specialises in lifecycle ICT product extension that aims to reduce the environmental impact of e-waste by recycling, where possible, ICT products through lifecycle programmes that recondition and return ICT product ranges to the business ICT stream. During 2016, Arrow Value Recovery Services diverted over 95 000 tons of ICT e-waste from landfill sites and into salvaged ICT product that was resold into developing markets.
Arrow Altech Distribution’s support for this initiative is led by Stephen Schoeman, the branch manager based in the Western Cape. Through its group companies, it has entered into tender submissions where legacy as well as redundant ICT equipment is sold to Arrow Value Recovery Services for lifecycle extension and resale.
“The main benefits for companies using this service is a reduction in their environmental impact and, in some instances, getting money back for an asset they have written off,” says Schoeman. “It is similar to the practice of donating redundant equipment to schools and charities, except through this programme the equipment has a longer lifespan.”
Another initiative by Arrow Altech Distribution in this regard is that it works with a local ICT company where it supports the purchasing of legacy smartphones destined for landfill sites, and assists with the reconditioning and refurbishment of these products that are then sold on to the consumer marketplace through online and other distribution channels.
“In the absence of any definitive legislation regarding e-waste,” says Schoeman, “we have a strong sense that those companies that adopt effective programmes and illu-strate that their sustainability efforts have a positive long-term effect, will enhance the goodwill of their stakeholders and eventually help to establish industry norms around e-waste reuse.”
Arrow Altech Distribution partners with a local e-waste recycler that is ISO 14001 certified to process all remaining e-waste not utilised by the above primary channels.