Green Tech South West were delighted to welcome Louise Whitaker, Head of Marketing and Sustainability and Anthony Levy, CEO at Cistor, to tell us how extending the life of tech through remanufacturing and reuse enables us to turn off the tap of e-waste.
Louise and Anthony joined us on Tuesday, April 20th at 12.30pm and we caught up with Louise ahead of their talk.
How big a problem is e-waste?
Louise: Unfortunately, it’s a huge problem, and one that’s growing. According to the UN, we are throwing away 50m tonnes per year, which is a staggering 7kg per person per year and rising. Alarmingly, e-waste is set to double by 2050. It’s hazardous waste that is often processed by people who lack protective equipment and the specialist knowledge of what to do. It’s another example of our consumption patterns hitting those at the base of our supply chains hardest. The problem is an environmental and social one, and increasingly it will become an economic problem too, as the scarcity of the resources needed to create electronics skyrockets as we use up our natural resources. The good news is, we have the solutions to act now to start to turn off the tap of ewaste.
How important is the concept of Circular Economy to both business and individuals? What are the main objections or challenges you hear from businesses around re-using technology?
Louise: It’s super important. Our lifestyles cannot be sustained by our planet’s resources. The simple fact is we need to keep the items we make in use for longer. It’s really encouraging to see the movement growing in fashion. The recognition that we can’t buy the latest cheap fashion, wear it once or twice and throw it away, whilst thinking there is no consequence. The impact of our purchasing decisions is being thought about in a more holistic way. We’re seeing spillover as people bring their circular economy values into the workplace This can be anything from sourcing second- hand office furniture (the heady days of working in offices!) to rethinking IT equipment purchases to considering remanufactured. The importance of moving from a take-make- dispose model of consumption to a circular economy model is gaining traction, which is great for all of us.
What are the main objections or challenges you hear from businesses around re-using technology?
Louise: I don’t know if I hear many objections, I think the challenge is simply knowing where to start. I’ve a background in sustainability and when businesses are looking at their biggest material impacts, technology doesn’t generally feature. Networking Technology is often hidden away in cupboards or under desks. New device purchases are normalised and budgets are (often) quite easily signed off for these items. Buying new is ingrained. The challenge is working with the industry to share the impact of unquestioningly buying new. What if businesses look at the outcomes not the inputs? Businesses like ours can build the network and communications infrastructure companies need and we can redeploy a blend of new, remanufactured and refurbished equipment to do this. We need to share and quantify the benefit of this approach so that it becomes interesting to our clients and aligned to their net zero carbon goals.
What have been your biggest successes so far with Cistor?
Louise: I’ve only been at Cistor for two months, so surely my biggest success has to be gaining a space to speak at Green Tech South West 😊.
I’m a natural collaborator and I recognise that we need to come together to address the climate emergency. Over the last two months, I’ve initiated some inspiring conversations with academics, certification bodies, marketing agencies, the public sector and other companies in the remanufactured tech space. I feel like the biggest success so far is seeing the response from organisations when they learn about e-waste. Tech is heralded as the big solution to the climate crisis, but it can only be the hero if it doesn’t leave chaos in its wake. E-waste, built in obsolescence, and the desire for newer, shinier and faster is the chaos. Once people realise this, they are quickly galvanized to make a difference and that’s the bit I love. We just need more action!
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Louise: We’ve got an exciting year planned. We want to be able to quantify the impact of organisations using remanufactured networking and communications technology on their scope 3 carbon emissions, so we’ll be conducting research. We also want to understand more about the blocks to IT professionals for using remanufactured technology, so we can counter any uncertainty. We’re also launching a new brand platform and have ideas for some campaigns to promote remanufactured IT. Importantly I’m excited to collaborate with people already working in this space to amplify the message that with technology, new isn’t always best. I’ll pepper this work with some trail running and puppy dog recall training and 2021 should be a good one!
Thank you Louise for the chat.
Louise took the virtual stage at our Green Tech SW meetup on Tuesday 20th of April at 12.30 pm. Head over to the meetup page for more info. (https://www.meetup.com/GreenTech-South-West/events/275942098/)