Ecological innovations for a greener future

Published on 06/08/2020 in Inspire

Ecological innovations for a greener future

Now that climate change’s extensive effects on the global economy are becoming ever more apparent, companies want innovations to reduce both their and their consumers’ ecological footprint. We chose three trendsetters who are already leading the way.

1 ton of cell phones = 120 kg of copper

Making smartphones requires a lot of materials and precious metals, like silver, gold, cobalt, tantalum (coltan), lithium, nickel, etc. These are becoming increasingly scarce around the globe. But, many precious metals can be extracted via refining and purification when recycling old cell phones and their batteries.

For cell phones, this mainly concerns the metals from the circuit board, which is how one ton of cell phones can result in 120 kg of copper. Cobalt, lithium, and nickel are extracted from the batteries. It is also a close-to-zero-waste process in a closed loop. Plastic waste incineration provides energy for the metal smelting process, thus freeing up the metals for manufacturing new devices. The results seem pretty impressive.

30% to 44% of the supply of platinum, palladium, and rhodium, already comes from recycling. Umicore Precious Refining’s precious metals recycling facility is one of the largest in the world.

Smartphone with a heart

Smartphones are so ubiquitous that we cannot stop thinking about the fact that these devices actually carry quite a large ecological footprint. Most of the raw materials are not harmful in themselves, but they are often mined in very environmentally damaging mines in Africa. Moreover, the production of a smartphone requires a lot of energy and CO2 emissions because the raw materials are first transported from Africa to Asia for production, and then to Europe and the US for sale. Finally, the working conditions in these mines are often substandard and child labor is still used.

The Fairphone brand tries to remedy this by building its smartphones from 50% recycled materials and by resolutely opting for raw materials that have been mined in a sustainable and socially responsible manner. Furthermore, the Fairphone is easy to take apart, so you do not have to throw it away completely when one part breaks.

AI against food waste

Stock management is a difficult balancing act for most retailers. If you stock to excess, you often have surpluses and food waste. If you stock less, you risk losing customers due to empty shelves. Retailers have now discovered a new weapon in this eternal battle: cognitive stock management, i.e. based on artificial intelligence.

That AI continuously autonomously calculates the most likely customer needs based on a wide range of data, e.g. promotions, existing stocks, past purchase history, weather, location, trends, events, etc. AI can thus predict stock requirements and even replenish stocks itself, with or without human approval.

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