While we’re really excited to see the greener gadgets coming out of a supposedly greener CES, it’s good to see big electronic makers making sure their old products get a green post-consumer life as well. The North American divisions of Panasonic and Toshiba, along with Sharp Electronics, have joined forces to form Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Co. LLC (MRM), which will manage collection
and recycling programs here in the U.S. MRM says it has already collected over 750 tons of electronics in five months in Minnesota. MRM was formed to deal with Minnesota’s new e-cycling laws; it also anticipates similar legislation in other states.
The global e-waste market is forecast to grow to $11 billion by 2009, with $3 billion in cell phones alone. Startups and even some retailers have been working to get in on this business but manufacturers have been slow to move in. Electronic makers could make significant money if they started designing their products for cradle-to-cradle lifespans, which would allow them to efficiently break down old devices to be remade into new ones. In a world in which device makers are constantly coaxing us to upgrade our gear, moving consumer electronics towards a service-based economy makes sense for everyone — the producer, the consumer, and the planet.
As manufacturers step up and design better devices, what will become of e-waste startups, like Electronic Recyclers? When the switch to digital television broadcast takes place in 2009, there will be a huge glut of old TVs needing safe disposal. As electronic manufacturers design for cradle-to-cradle lifespans, independent e-cyclers will have to make partnerships with manufacturers or risk losing their market share.