The e-waste problem is a very real one, and it is one that seems to be getting worse by the day. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as much as 90 percent of global electronic waste is traded or dumped illegally every year. The prediction is that electronic waste will increase to 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021. Nevertheless, it is not all doom and gloom because there are a lot of people that are making a significant effort to combat this problem.
We are not only talking about governments and the various directives in place. But, several intelligent people all around the globe have been setting up businesses and charities that have the aim of dealing with this gigantic issue. Existing IT support companies are also tweaking their policies to ensure they reuse electronics and help to combat the problem.
Take the establishment of the world’s first ethical smartphone as a prime example. The Fairphone aims to reduce e-waste while also improving factory working conditions in China and ensuring that all supplies are ethically sourced. Another organization that deserves a considerable amount of praise and attention is Techfortrade. This company is a UK charity that is turning inkjet printer e-waste into 3D printers for developing nations.
Most developing countries cannot afford 3D printing. While this has brought significant benefits to businesses in the UK and the US, including the improved time to market, a more efficient manufacturing process, reduced expenditure, and better products, those in the developing world are unable to afford to make this investment. This challenge is something that the Techfortrade company is attempting to change. They are creating software that can utilize e-waste components to build 3D printers. They are making this technology available online for free, and anyone around the globe can follow the technique they are using as well.
This breakthrough represents an effective use of e-waste, and it is something that more and more businesses should be looking to follow. After all, it is estimated by Wrap UK that a quarter of all electronic waste equipment that sent to centers for recycling could be used again, and this is only relating to household recycling centers. Reuse is worth approximately £200 million per annum. This solution could be anything from fax machines and inkjet printers to tablets and old PCs.
Techfortrade aims to take these once-treasured gadgets and utilize them to serve a new purpose. The charity was founded in 2011 by William Hoyle. He had observed that trucks were crossing the border from Zambia to the Dominican Republic of Congo with supplies, and he began to explore whether he could lower the dependency on trucks carrying supplies to these poorer African nations through 3D printing, giving them the ability to create their own supplies.
The charity developed Retr3d, which is an open-source software program, which allows individuals to create their own custom 3D printers by using different components from old photocopiers and inkjet printers that do not match, such as pulleys, cogs, motors, and head rods. The software calibrates the 3D printer to create the project. This project gives students and professionals the ability to develop their 3D printers to create supplies and boost the economy in their own country.