Consumer electronic waste is a big problem in North America. In 2019, the U.S. generated about 46 pounds of e-waste per person and only recycled 15 percent of it. Canadians generate around 725,000 tons of e-waste annually and only recycle 20 percent.
Panasonic announced a consumer electronic recycling pilot program at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. The Take Back for Tomorrow program will kick off by taking back electronic personal care devices, including shavers and trimmers.
The takeback program is a collaboration with several companies. Panasonic sends the lithium-ion batteries in the devices to Redwood Materials. The company then recycles and remanufactures metals into anode and cathode components for Panasonic’s electric vehicle batteries. MRM will manage the takeback program by coordinating and auditing recycling.
Panasonic began partnering with Redwood Materials in 2019, and the company has recycled scrap material for Panasonic ever since. In November 2022, Panasonic announced its agreement with Redwood Materials to purchase active cathode materials and copper foil for EV lithium-ion batteries. Panasonic will use the cathode materials to manufacture batteries at its new facility in De Soto, Kansas starting in 2025. The company will use recycled copper foil to manufacture batteries at its Sparks, Nevada facility in 2024.
The agreement with Redwood Materials helps Panasonic meet its goals of halving its carbon footprint by 2030 and increasing local procurement in North America. Both recycling and localizing the supply chain “are both essential to make the best use of limited natural resources,” said Kazuo Tadanobu, President and CEO of Panasonic Energy, in a statement. “Through this partnership with Redwood, Panasonic Energy will be able to use recycled materials in its high-quality automotive batteries and contribute to the circular economy.”
Consumers can participate in the takeback program by signing up at PanasonicMultiShape.com. Panasonic covers the cost of shipping the product and generates a pre-paid label. Participating consumers receive a 30 percent discount on a new Panasonic MultiShape device.
“We are proud to partner with ERI, Redwood Materials, and MRM on this pilot program to help save personal care products from landfills,” said Walter Taffarello, Director of Appliance and Beauty Merchandise, Panasonic. “Disassembly and then recycling or reusing all the parts of end-of-life products is essential to protecting natural resources.”
The Global Problem of E-waste
E-waste is not just a North American problem but a global one. The world produced 54 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019. E-waste will increase globally by an estimated 30 percent by 2030. The global share of documented, collected, and recycled e-waste is only 20 percent. Western countries send an estimated 80 percent of their unrecycled e-waste to Asia, where many countries lack the equipment and certifications to guarantee worker safety as they melt down the metals and plastics in consumer electronics. The metals in the products can cause severe human health problems.
The e-waste produced is valuable, with a worth of over $62.5 billion, more than most countries GDP. A ton of e-waste contains 100 times more gold than a ton of gold ore. Up to seven percent of the world’s gold ore may be contained in e-waste.
Photo by Robin Glauser on Unsplash