As humanity continues to populate and expand its presence across the globe, the snowballing effect of waste, in particular, e-waste, is trickling in a noticeable path. With experts predicting the annual generation of e-waste reaching 74.7 metric tonnes (Mt) by 2030, businesses have had to accelerate the implementation of several measures to reduce their environmental footprint, one of which includes the use of reverse logistics.
The phenomenon of reverse logistics refers to the supply chain management process whereby consumer goods are moved from customers back to the sellers or manufacturers, resulting in the reuse of products and materials.
By sourcing and purchasing open-box, clearance, faulty and damaged products, companies ensure sustainability in their supply chain operations by recycling, refurbishing or reusing these goods, prolonging the ‘end of life’ phase in their development cycle, which has become increasingly crucial to the environment.
Reverse logistics is a promising solution to tackling e-waste due to high-speed technological advancements. With 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste recorded in 2019, global electronic wastage is set to increase due to rapid technological advances, economic growth, urbanisation processes, and the increasing demand for consumer electronic equipment worldwide annually.
Businesses have entered B2B partnerships, where electronic components that may be salvaged are “harvested” and then sold from business A to business B for repurposing. Instead of outdated, “open-box, and clearance products entering landfills, they are given the opportunity to an “another life”.
The goal of reverse logistics is to maximise the asset value, creating a focal point to recycle products and materials. The process consists of several aspects including repairing broken products and allowing them to then be sold at heavily discounted prices, repacking open-box items, recycling materials that are inoperable, and material harvesting, which enables companies to extract the materials from damaged products and utilise them to fix other items.
Beyond logistical and economic benefits, reverse logistics contributes substantially to sustainability. The circular economy promotes a longer product life cycle as items are either repaired or repackaged and then travel back through the supply chain, providing a second chance for purchase and ultimately avoiding contributing to global waste.
Global garbage is expected to reach 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050, a shift in the amount of waste ending up in landfills is desperately needed in order to protect the future of the environment we live in. Businesses and individuals can take several steps within their lives to create positive environmental impacts, including the use of reverse logistics.
The promising potential for “responsible recycling” is probably one of the most significant factors when considering whether to include reverse logistics in an end-end supply chain. Between the burgeoning demand to swiftly “rid products and electronics” and factoring in the
operational costs to effectively recycle, businesses who adopt B2B partnerships are left with smaller and more manageable recycling “piles” that can be maintained effortlessly without compromising their business operations or the environment.
Adapting reverse logistics within a company’s supply chain is in line with the UAE’s Vision 2021 to improve air quality, preserve water resources, increase the contribution of clean energy and implement green growth plans. The green circular model is a given alternative to reducing the negative impacts of the supply chain. Seeing that the effects of logistics have become more transparent to customers, the call to businesses to factor reverse logistics into their supply chain model is almost imminent.
With the rapid build-up of external pressures in the distribution market, it is becoming increasingly crucial for all companies to consider a reverse logistics approach that will provide environmental, economic, and supply chain advantages for their short and long-term goals.
Mohammad Sleiman is the founder and CEO of Cartlow