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Adopting Sustainability in Designing Products to Tackle E-Waste

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the rapid increase in digitization in the world. This is accompanied by the increase in the problem of e-waste. According to the report, The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, the world discards approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year, and of this, only 20 per cent is recycled.
India has become the largest producer of e-waste after China and the United States. According to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board, India generated 1,014,961.2 tonnes of e-waste in the fiscal year 2019-2020. According to the UNFCCC, non-recycled e-waste contributes to about 4.25 per cent of greenhouse gases.
Experts say that the best way to deal with waste is to reduce it. The waste generated despite this must be reused and only the remaining waste should be recycled. This reduce-reuse and recycle mantra is the key to efficient waste management and should be adopted for managing the e-waste as well. The responsibility of undertaking the first two stages of the mantra lies with the manufacturers, as the users do not have the expertise for reducing or reusing the e-waste from their electronic products.

Repair vs. Replace

When customers face trouble with their devices, more often than not, they seek to repair and maintenance from the service centres, unless the device was newly purchased and turned out to be defective. However, several companies including Apple offer these customers with replacement of either the entire product or the internal system, even if only one of the parts is defective. Many companies claim that the parts are not easily replaceable and irreparable, therefore forcing the customers to discard the device entirely in favour of a new one. This in turn only contributes to the increasing problem of e-waste.

Concept Luna by Dell

With an aim to make repair and maintenance easy, Dell in collaboration with Intel has introduced Concept Luna which explores revolutionary design ideas to make components immediately accessible, replaceable and reusable, reducing resource use and keeping even more circular materials in the economy. The machine created using the ideas of the concept has all the components easy to remove and replace. There is no glue used to put together the system, thus making it easy for anyone to open it up and repair it when necessary.

The prototype laptop created by Dell is not yet commercially available. The idea is in the experimentation stage. However, the company has claimed that if all the design ideas of the Concept Luna is realized, a reduction of 50 per cent of the total carbon footprint of the overall product is expected.

Features of Concept Luna

A reduced product carbon footprint: The company made an effort to look at brand new ways to increase energy efficiency, deliver better power and cooling and experimented with materials that have a smaller carbon footprint to help deliver a more decarbonized device. Motherboards can be one of the most energy-intense components to manufacture – by shrinking its total area by approximately 75% and component count by approximately 20%, it is estimated that the carbon footprint of the motherboard could be reduced by 50%.
The company has completely reconsidered the layout of all internal components – relocating that smaller motherboard to the top cover puts it closer to a larger surface area exposed to the cooler air outside. This, combined with separating it from the battery charging unit in the base, leads to better passive heat distribution and could totally eliminate the need for a fan. These efficiencies could significantly reduce the overall power needs – making way for a smaller battery with advanced deep-cycle cells that is still powerful enough for daily use. An aluminium chassis processed using hydropower and using stamped aluminium construction requires less energy and produces minimal scrap.
A future vision of reuse, repair and recreating: The company has reduced the number of screws by 10x, with just four needed to access internal components – reducing time for repairs (to disassemble, repair and reassemble key components) by approximately 1.5 hours (16x faster than for a similar product today). The palm rest assembly is intentionally designed for ease of repair and reuse. The keyboard mechanisms provide clean, easy separation from other components and simplify recycling. The advanced deep-cycle cell battery provides a long charge that can be maintained across many years of use, increasing refurbishment and reuse beyond the first product life it services. A new bio-based printed circuit board (or ‘PCB’) is made in such a way that the recyclers can more easily separate metals and components from the boards.
Concept Luna is a strong example of how technology can be made sustainable with innovation and intent.