Early in September, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) released a report, discussing important elements of technology innovation that will impact markets over the next decade. Below are some highlights covered in the report, which can be downloaded here.
Planning for product end of life.
Consumer electronics companies are making an increasing priority of designing products that are easy to recycle at the end of their useful life. According to the report, the industry is pursuing an aggressive goal to be recycling one billion pounds of electronics per year by 2016. Currently, they are on track for this goal, having recycled 585 million pounds in 2012. The report also cites the example of Dell—and how they are making their PCs easier to dismantle for the purpose of separating different types of recyclable material.
Increased use of recycled plastics.
Plastics are crucial for all electronics, accounting for heavy amounts of the material consumed in the process of manufacturing all manner of consumer products. Producers are constantly developing new manufacturing processes that allow for recycled plastics to be used in place of virgin material. In addition, the report mentions how reducing product size and weight is a top priority.
The Electronic Product Environment Assessment Tool® (EPEAT) has grown in industry acceptance since it was first developed in 2006, according to the report. As a result, producers are able to make purchasing decisions that reduce environmental waste. The report states that “…in the United States in 2011 EPEAT purchasing reduced the use of toxic materials by 1,053 metric [tons], and greenhouse gas emissions by more than one billion metric [tons] of carbon equivalent.” The report also says that retailer Best Buy was able to conserve enough energy to power 15,000 homes for a year by purchasing EPEAT products.
Extending product life cycles.
Companies are now looking for ways to extend the usable life of electronic products through refurbishment, repair, and upgrading. Providing extended technical support services will likely continue to be a focus in the years to come. Also, interchangeable modules allow part of a device to be replaced or upgraded. Good parts from broken units can be resold, and this practice is expected to grow in popularity in a number of different markets. “[The] secondary market for used devices…in 2011 was estimated to be worth $13 billion in annual sales.”
Shipping and delivery are key to reducing environmental impact. Designing packages to be lighter and thinner to consume less input materials is one aspect of the challenge, and the report states that manufacturers are also moving over to bamboo as a natural packaging material to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals. Finally, packages are being designed not only for small size, but also to reduce the number of shipments needed—thereby reducing fuel consumption.
Reduced energy consumption.
The report highlighted design of residential home appliances, such as TV sets, with an emphasis on reducing power consumption. For example, the Set-Top Box Energy Conservation Agreement (a voluntary agreement created jointly by a number of cable TV providers and device manufacturers), according to the report, is expected to save $1.5 billion in residential energy when it has been fully implemented.
The report covers a number of other topics; this post contains only a short summary. To learn more about what the consumer electronics industry is doing to positively impact sustainability, download the full report from the CEA web site.