Close the Gap X Metabolic: a research for impact
Posted on Sep 30, 2021 12:00 AM by
Close the Gap contacted Metabolic, a renowned research agency, to help us map out the environmental impact we, as Close the Gap, are creating. We would like to share the results of that study with you.
Electronic devices became indispensable in our digital society and while they are fun and make life easier, they come with an enormous cost. Electronic waste, e-waste, has been the fastest growing waste stream for a few years now. In just 2019 a record of 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated worldwide, an increase of 21% in just five years. The production process for electronics passes different stages and every stage in that process has a variety of environmental impacts that result from the electronics system. These impacts vary from hazardous materials leaking into the environment to improperly disposed electronics and direct impacts such as global warming due to greenhouse gases that are released during the production process or transport.
At Close the Gap we aim to find circular solutions for electronics so we can reduce the environmental impact and improve the value of used devices by extending their lifecycle. Circularization strategies like recycling, refurbishing, and re-using help the critical materials that are needed during the production process stay in circulation for as long as possible, which reduces the demand for raw materials and other impacts of production processes.
We aim to bridge the digital divide, but environmental impact is as important as ever now and an important pillar of our organization. By adapting circularization strategies, we contribute to a more eco-friendly production process and less e-waste. We reduce our stream of waste by maintaining the value of the materials and the process that were required to manufacture the electronic devices, but we want to get better at that. That is why we contacted Metabolic, a renowned research agency that helped us measure the environmental impact of our organisation so we can learn to do better in the future.
Metabolic based their research on already existing LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments), academic research and raw data from Close the Gap, and were thereby able to compute Close the Gap’s environmental impact. We process more than 100 000 assets each year, these assets are then handled according to the three R’s: recycled, reused/repaired or refurbished. Which assets are processed in which way depends entirely on the state of the asset once it reaches our re-manufacturing centres. Assets can be reused by another consumer if the discarded product is still in good condition and fulfils its original function. If the product is defect it undergoes repair and maintenance to get used again for its original function. We refurbish the used products, so they are restored and brought up to date.
By prolonging the lifecycle of one laptop with four more years, this is the environmental impact we can create.
These R-strategies do require the consumer to treat their IT assets with care during their lifecycles. That ensures a more high-quality laptop, desktop, smartphone, … for the next consumer. If the asset is in good condition, it suffices for us to test the asset and send it off for re-use. That solution is the most favourable in terms of environmental impact. The worse the condition of the asset, the higher the chance on recycling or repair, which means bad news for the environmental impact.
This study however does not take the direct impacts of Close the Gap manufacturing operations or transportations into account. We do want to be able to measure the impact of our whole organisation so in agreement with Metabolic we are setting up a follow-up study that also takes the manufacturing operations and transportations into account, so we can do better in the future.
Let’s create more impact together!
 Forti V., Baldé C.P., Kuehr R., Bel G. The Global E-waste Monitor 2020: Quantities,
flows and the circular economy potential. United Nations University (UNU)/United
Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) – co-hosted SCYCLE Programme,
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) & International Solid Waste Association