In a world that’s being buried in electronic waste, the South African ICT channel must think about new ways of disposing of waste materials, minimising the creation of waste, and the possible reuse of waste materials.
The global IT asset disposition market size was valued at USD18 Billion in 2021, and it is expected to increase to USD51 Billion by 2030 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% by 2030. As more organisations are deciding whether to restore, resell, recycle, or properly dispose of outdated technology they are turning to reverse logistics to recapture value and end a product's lifecycle, with the goal of reducing landfill and maximising value.
Reverse logistics is a mechanism to implement sustainable waste management through reusing, recycling and finally reducing load on natural resources as well as on landfills.
For IT resellers, effective reverse logistics can significantly reduce waste and improve the sustainability of their operations.
Here are 10 best practices that I believe will go a long way to help us achieve this as an ICT channel:
Educate customers about the importance of responsible disposal and recycling of IT equipment. Provide guidance on how to recycle products properly and emphasise the benefits of participating in sustainable practices.
Establish customer-friendly return policies that provide guidelines for returning products. Make it easy for customers to understand the return process and offer options like prepaid shipping to encourage responsible returns.
Implement a thorough inspection and grading system for returned products. This allows you to determine the condition of the items and make informed decisions on whether to refurbish, resell, recycle, or dispose of them responsibly.
Restore, resell, recycle
Invest in technicians to repair and refurbish returned products whenever possible. Extending the lifespan of IT equipment reduces the need for new products and lowers overall waste. Explore resale options, either through your own channels or secondary markets. Consider partnering with specialised resellers or platforms that deal with refurbished IT equipment.
If the products cannot be resold, consider recycling them for their components. Properly recycling electronics prevents hazardous materials from ending up in landfills and promotes the recovery of valuable resources.
Reverse supply chain visibility
Implement a robust reverse supply chain management system that allows you to track products through the entire return process. This helps identify inefficiencies, areas for improvement, and potential opportunities for recycling or refurbishment.
Collaborate with suppliers
Work closely with your suppliers and manufacturers to promote eco-friendly packaging, reduce unnecessary packaging, and design products with easier disassembly for recycling purposes.
Stay up to date with regulations regarding the disposal and recycling of electronic waste. Comply with all legal requirements to ensure environmentally responsible practices.
Measure and monitor the success of your reverse logistics initiatives. Keep track of key performance indicators (KPIs) such as waste reduction, recycling rates, and refurbished product sales. Regularly report progress to stakeholders and set targets for improvement.
Products that are in good condition but not be suitable for resale can be donated to charities, schools, or community organisations.
As companies globally transition from a ‘take-make-waste’ model to one that accounts for the impact of every product we produce, consume and discard, those that adapt first will be the market leaders as they appeal to environmentally conscious customers.