Growing global concerns over climate change are putting an increasing focus on sustainability. This report is part of an occasional series on sustainability in industry which examines the opportunities and challenges facing various industrial sectors and the role that the International Finance Corporation can play to support their efforts and contribute to a greener planet.
The harnessing of electric power in the late-19th century ushered in an industrial era that forever changed the way people work, communicate, and interact.
From refrigerators and cell phones to pacemakers and production lines, today’s electronics not only contribute to the conveniences of everyday life, but also play an indispensable role in ensuring the health, wealth, and wellbeing of people around the world.
It takes a lot of copper, plastic, lithium, and cobalt—and a slew of other ingredients—to make the electronics that power today’s digital economies. At least 70 elements from the periodic table can be found in a typical smartphone, and most never get recovered, reused, recycled, or resold.1 By 2030, there will be many times more electronics on the planet than today, consuming far more material resources and contributing far more waste.