Updated: Nov 19, 2020
In 2016, 49 million tons of electronics waste was thrown away around the world—roughly the equivalent of 4,500 Eiffel Towers. By 2021, experts estimate that number will grow to more than 57 million tons. In the U.S. alone, consumers get rid of millions of pounds of electronics every year, but only 20% of that is properly recycled—the rest ends up clogging landfills and leading to large amounts of toxic chemicals and waste.
To offset the massive amount of waste, many consumer tech companies are working to become more sustainable, both internally and in their consumer-facing products. The impact of these efforts could substantially lessen the amount of electronics in landfills and the overall footprint of the tech industry.
1 . Apple
All of the tech giant’s operations run on fully renewable energy, and everything about its products, from the materials to packaging, is designed to have minimal environmental impact. The assembly sites for Apple’s products are certified Zero Waste to Landfill, and it has decreased average product energy use by 70% in the last 10 years. Apple and its suppliers worked together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 466,000 metric tons, which is equal to 100,000 cars being off the road for one year.
2 . HP
HP is ahead of its own curve for sustainability. The company reached its goal of 100% zero deforestation with HP-branded paper two years before its target. In recent years, HP reduced its carbon footprint by one-third and ensured 30% of plastic in its printers is repurposed from other items. HP’s next goal is to increase the recycled content of plastics across its print and personal systems portfolio to 30% by 2025.
3 . Fairphone
Fairphone is dedicated to creating smartphones that are sustainable and high-quality. It regularly receives top marks from environmental groups for its clean supply chains and sustainable materials. Fairphone uses a modular design so that its hardware lasts as long as possible and can be upgraded through new software instead of making customers buy a completely new phone. Customers can map the journey of their smartphone and see the exact suppliers for each part, as well as recycle old devices for a credit on new Fairphones.
4 . Microsoft
Microsoft’s sustainability efforts extend to its internal processes and external products. By 2023, 70% of Microsoft’s massive data centres will run on renewable energy. As a whole, the company is working to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove its historical carbon emissions by 2050. Microsoft charges an internal carbon fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon emissions to encourage its departments to be as sustainable as possible. That money is invested in other eco-friendly initiatives to offset the emissions. In its products, Microsoft sources responsible materials and uses recycled and reused materials as much as possible.
5 . Samsung
In 2019, Samsung made the switch to recycled and sustainably sourced packaging, and it is moving away from disposable materials in its manufacturing and packaging efforts. It has a goal to recycle 7.5 billion pounds of electronics waste by 2030. Samsung is on track to use 100% renewable energy in the U.S. by the end of 2020. Samsung is also committed to a wide range of global social initiatives, including protecting the ecosystem and taking urgent action against climate change.
6 . Lenovo
Lenovo has widespread sustainability efforts that include helping the environment and social causes around the world. Lenovo’s offices and manufacturing facilities are all certified to meet leading sustainability standards. Lenovo is also working towards a 40% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2021. Lenovo designs its packaging to be thin and lightweight by using materials like sugar cane and bamboo, which are significantly lighter than plastic and other alternatives. Lenovo aims to use as many eco-friendly and recycled materials in its products as possible.
7 . Teracube
Startup Teracube designs smartphones that are made to last in an effort to cut down on electronics waste. Teracube calls itself “the world’s most reliable smartphone” and comes with a four-year warranty, compared to the average two-year lifespan of many other smartphones. Teracube’s goal is to repair damaged phones instead of completely replacing them and causing more waste. The phone is built with fair-trade partners in the best possible labor conditions and has a modular design for easy updates.
8 . Bookeen
Bookeen is a French company disrupting the tablet industry with a line of more sustainable e-readers. Although the products are available in the U.S., Bookeen’s website for purchases is entirely in French. But language barrier aside, the products take an innovative, eco-friendly spin on traditional e-readers. Bookeen’s products include a built-in case, some of which are solar-powered and can be charged without cables, cords or electricity. It receives top marks for sustainable manufacturing and materials from e