Digital industry must embrace ‘servicisation’

Businesses manufacturing and selling digital products must move towards a servicisation model if they are to help significantly reduce global electronic waste (e-waste), says HP's director of environmental responsibility EMEA.

Addressing delegates at the Sustainability Leaders Forum in London (November 21), organised by Sustainable Business and, HP’s director of environmental responsibility Kirstie McIntyre EMEA said: “We need to move away from becoming attached to our tablet or smartphone or PC – instead consumers need to start leasing these products”.

Roughly 40 million metric tons of e-waste is produced globally each year, and about 13% of that weight is recycled mostly in developing countries, according to research analysts, Population Reference Bureau.

“We ask our customers to have this stuff and to use it but we ask them to give it back so we can recycle it,” said McIntyre.

New design concepts have emerged to tackle increasing e-waste, with ideas around the ‘device for life’ a possible solution. However, McIntyre said consumers are unlikely to accept the product designs.

“We could make a fully upgradeable PC that would last forever but most likely you wouldn’t want to be seen with it and it wouldn’t be ‘carryable’ or portable,” said McIntyre.

She added that a balance must be struck between making sure that “you have a design team that brings in innovation and moves things forward but meets the consumers’ needs to have something cool and trendy”.

Designs such as the modular mobile phone, where you replace parts of the phone rather than throw the whole device away is gaining traction amongst consumers. However, the concept is yet to be brought to market.

“Moving forward, these are some of the challenges that as a society and as an industry we have to face,” said McIntyre.

Leigh Stringer

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