This blog was reposted with permission from Engineering 360-Powered by IEEE Global Spec-original post published May 30th, 2017:
Ever wonder where your circuit boards, motors and other electronic parts end up when you’re finished using them? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most meet their end in landfills, and sadly, many could be recycled and reused. Known as electronic waste, or e-waste for short, these pieces include far more than just the mobile phones and laptops of yesteryear. The EPA estimates that approximately 41.8 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2014 (data for 2015 and 2016 is not yet available), with the U.S. accounting for 11.7 million of those tons. By 2018, that worldwide estimate is expected to increase to 49.8 million tons.
Businesses with the tons of electronic equipment they use and discard annually – have the unique ability to make the biggest impact by recycling or upcycling their e-waste. An interesting trend has emerged in the electronics and engineering space, in which legacy equipment is sold off and warehoused by a third-party to resell to another company that is still using and in need of that equipment and accompanying parts.
Consider this: Company ABC purchased a large lot of sensors to test their own product, only to discover a few years later that a different sensor would help them better perform that test. They still had 5,000 new-in-the-box sensors from that first lot just taking up space in their warehouse, and when it comes time to move to a new facility, they consider throwing out those 5,000 sensors because it doesn’t make sense to move them to the new space. As far as Company ABC is concerned, those sensors are obsolete and completely useless. However, Company XYZ still uses the same sensors on a regular basis for a completely different application, and is finding that the inventory of their usual supplier is dwindling. They are spending countless man-hours trying to seek out these sensors, and wondering just how long they have before they need to change their operating procedures or product specifications to find a different solution.