The Four ‘R’s Of Sustainable Tech

We’ve got our work cut out if we’re going to save the planet.

While global CO2 emissions might have fallen during 2020 due to the pandemic, they are highly correlated with the economic bounce-back, and are set to rise again in 2021. But CO2 is just one factor we need to consider in reaching sustainability. Our consumption of the earth’s mineral resources are another important factor which will lead to environmental catastophe.

Many of the organisations I speak with have started to consider their own profile as concerns digital waste – but what worries me is that policies being considered are limited to the basics, and given the scale of the climate emergency – perhaps it’s time for a no-holds-barred approach to sustianable tech.

This isn’t going to make for comfortable reading for most, but here’s how to think about the environmental footprint of tech, and some thoughts on what we can all do to improve our own contribution:


This is the no-brainer option. When your gadget finally dies, make sure it goes to the appropriate place for recylcing.

But more than this – if you’re going to buy new – make sure you buy tech that is easy to recycle and not just that which has a high claimed content of recycled components. In the future, it might be possible to simply ‘dissolve’ devices once they’ve reached the end of their useful life-span – but until then consider whether the brand you are buying from is committed to designing their products to be easily recylcable.

In Europe, the WEEE Directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) means you can always return items that are no longer required back to the point of purchase so the onus is on the retailer to take the burdon of recycling (and which hopefully makes them think twice about selling hard-to-recycle products in the first place). Even so, ask questions about their recycle policy. It’s our responsibility not just to put the plastic in the right bin, but also to demand that it doesn’t still go to landfill after it’s been taken away.


Better than buying new…