Consumer tech companies who aim to operate a circular economy model, do so to reduce waste and maximise the value of resources by promoting product reuse, refurbishment and recycling. The tech industry is producing more and more waste each year. Recent reports demonstrate that more than 50 million metric tons of e-waste is generated globally every year — and is expected to reach 74.7 million by 2030. When brands not only produce products responsibly, but also promote reuse, refurbishment and recycling, we can drastically reduce the amount of e-waste piling up in landfill.
While this way of doing things currently contrasts with the traditional linear economy — where resources follow a straight line of being extracted, turned into products, and then disposed of as waste at the end of their life — it offers a hopeful and helpful alternative to overconsumption.
Circular tech companies can operate in several ways: some focus on designing products that are durable, repairable and upgradable, which reduces the amount of waste generated and extends the lifespan of the product. Others offer refurbishment services, taking in used products to repair, upgrade, and sell again. Some focus on recycling; collecting end-of-life products and disassembling them to recover materials that can be used in all-new products. And some produce from 100% recycled materials.
According to a recent study, plastic use can be reduced by nearly 80% in the next 20 years, if more brands adopt circular economy practices. So, who is championing circularity in the tech industry?
Gomi — The UK-based design studio that produces sustainable tech products — and is dedicated to the circular economy. Gomi uses plastic waste to create its roster: think Bluetooth speakers and portable chargers. The company even goes as far as to collect plastic waste from local sources such as businesses and individuals, before processing and recycling into materials for its technological innovations. Additionally, gomi’s modular approach to design allows for effortless disassemblement — making them easy to repair, refurbish and recycle.
Repeat — This French company produces high-quality audio products that take a sustainable approach to craftsmanship. Their products, which include headphones and speakers, are designed to be modular and upgradable — making them easy to repair and extending their lifespan. Repeat also utilises eco-friendly materials in its production, such as recycled plastic and bamboo, and operates a no-questions-asked policy when it comes to refurbishing its designs.
AIAIAI — Danish brand AIAIAI produces refined headphones and highly detailed audio equipment set out to empower the latest generation of creatives. With a focus on sustainability and modularity, AIAIAI's tech products follow a modular system, renowned for its responsible design — sustainable materials, such as recycled plastics and bio-based materials, are used in production, allowing for them to be easily disassembled, for parts to be replaced and for a longer lifespan.
Fairphone — When looking for ethical or sustainable smartphones, opt for Fairphone. The Amsterdam-based, B-Corp certified company also designs with a modular approach — meaning these products are more sustainable than traditional models. Fairphone also repairs and recycles: its production has implemented a buy-back program, where customers can return their used phones responsibly.
Companies like these infuse the industry with innovative ideas surrounding resource optimization. They offer up examples of how we can save materials and protect Planet Earth by following the principles of a circular economy.
As consumers, we can — and should — support these conscious brands and firms by opting for the most sustainable options and products. As well as making sure to recycle our end-of-life tech through the proper channels (such as buy-back programs or responsible recycling centres).
We live in an instant-gratification world, full of technological innovation and advances. Brands in this sustainable space in the industry give us hope, and pave the way so we can enjoy all the benefits, while simultaneously making sure to respect our natural resources.
We all know ‘fast tech’ is unsustainable — opt for the circular economy