Three good reasons why your next tech gadget should contain recycled plastics

Many of us experience the benefits of innovation, technology, and digitalization in our daily lives. More and more people are joining the global information society and digital economy, and are benefiting from the opportunities they offer.

Few of us, however, are aware of the price our planet pays every day so that we can enjoy being part of the digital revolution.

There are small things that we as consumers can do in our daily lives that can make a big difference in the long run. We have the power to make an informed choice today that we will be thankful for later.

For instance, if more people choose to recycle their old tech devices rather than store them at home, companies will not have to manufacture most components from scratch and production cost of future goods will ultimately be reduced. Thus, both the consumer and manufacturer will benefit and, eventually, so will the economy. A little goes a long way.

Here are three good reasons why your next tech gadget should contain recycled plastics:

1) Recycled plastics in tech gadgets are as high quality, long-lasting, and durable as virgin plastics.

2) Closed loop plastics have an 11% lower carbon footprint than their virgin counterparts[i].

3) Products containing recycled plastics cost the same as products containing virgin plastics. In the long-term there is a high chance they will cost less.

Companies are using leading research and innovation in recycling and design to bring recycled plastics back into production of new tech devices, such as washing machines, smartphones, computers, vacuum cleaners, coffee machines, and many others. Recycled plastics are so well integrated into the product design that it is impossible to tell the difference in terms of quality, performance, price, or color between a product containing brand-new plastics and the same product containing recycled plastics.

This is where solutions like the PuzzlePhone, the modular smartphone designed to last up to 10 years, fits in. Without building on existing processes and supply chains, PuzzlePhone’s modularity enables a pain-free transition from linear to circular economy production and consumption business models. Take-back loops are embedded in PuzzlePhone’s architecture. PuzzlePhone’s modular approach incentivizes producers and consumers to embrace it. Lower cost of ownership is obtained through extended lifespan and an afterlife for the discarded modules. In addition, there is an increased added value through repair options, upgrade options, down-cycling, and upcycling. This could, for example, be re-using your old modules to repair an older modular device or to cover an existing need, such as a connected baby monitor, a smart doorbell, or a desktop computer, which in the end are all “Androidware devices” with different screen sizes, or simply screen-less. This is possible by recombining old pieces and subsequently reducing the need to buy brand new non-modular gear that ends up in the drawer or the landfill because they do not incentivize consumers to use the take back option.

Whirlpool designs to meet performance, meaning no matter whether the material is virgin or recycled, it must meet performance expectations. This is because the priorities are always quality, reliability, and safety to meet consumer requests.

Whirlpool develops, with suppliers and partners, polypropylene and high impact polystyrene grades to be used in washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Looking at closed-loop opportunities, the company is targeting electronic waste as a source for secondary plastic in order to get grades as closed as possible to the original application, thus maximizing the opportunity to get suitable performances. In this sense, the WEEE regulation is beneficial since there is already a waste sorting according to the product type. For example, refrigerators and freezers are treated in a specific stream (together with other cooling appliances), providing a plastic fraction quite limited in terms of the diversity of grades. On the other end, there are still significant challenges when aiming to get plastics suitable for food-grade application. In this context, Whirlpool EMEA has joined the EU Pledging Campaign within the framework of the EU Plastics strategy.

[i] Best Practices in Recycled Plastics, Digital Europe, 2016