MEM601 Engineering Sustainability Assignment Sample
Individual/Group - Group
Length - 2,500 words +/–10%
Learning Outcomes: The Subject Learning Outcomes demonstrated by the successful completion of the task below include:
a) Critically analyse the importance and challenges of ethics and sustainability in the economy and organisations, reflecting on the roles of key sustainability stakeholders;
b) Investigate, analyse and evaluate the challenges associated with sustainably and ethically managing an engineering organisation’s strategy and functions, as well as the management
c) Critically analyse and apply tools, methodologies, management practices and processes to ensure engineering sustainability compliance and delivery of sustainable outcomes; and
d) Create a sustainability strategy to contribute to business continuity.
Task Instructions for Engineering assignment -
• Form groups as guided by your facilitator.
• Read the MEM601_Assessment 3_Group Working Guide document for more information about group formation.
In this assessment, you will use circular economy concepts to generate recommendations that
countries can adopt to address e-waste. To complete this assessment, you will research and address the questions and issues (outlined below) in relation to Australia.
• Identify examples of business models that promote the circular use of electronic resources.
• What incentives are required to promote circular concepts throughout the lifecycle of electronic products?
• How can businesses ensure that circular economy concepts are embedded throughout their electronic supply chains?
• Identify examples of innovative technologies that can facilitate the re-use of e-waste materials.
• Identify challenges to the adoption and scalability of technical solutions.
The methodology for this assessment is based on desk-based research using secondary sources. You need to prepare for and approach this task by reviewing the content and readings provided in ‘Module 4: Ensuring Engineering Sustainability Compliance’ and conducting research of publicly available information.
In structuring the report, please use the following headings as a guide:
Summarise the background information provided on the circular economy and e-waste and the objective of the assignment.
2. Research questions to be addressed Research questions and issues related to business models and technology.
3. Literature Review
Summarise the literature review for each research question.
4. Recommendations for Australia
What should Australia do to facilitate a more effective strategic approach to develop a circular economy for e-waste?
In an ever-changing imperfect world, every contributor are working in management and collaboration in providing a better and safe future for the future generations to come. The experts, scientists, and major concerns all around the world consider sustainability to be the prime focus of our era in realizing the needs of the next generation.
Electronic waste, which is also referred to as E-waste is a central subject with concern to a circular economy. The circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy which follows the basic principle of creating resources, utilizing and then disposing of them however in a circular economy, resources are kept in store, the focus is on maximum utilization and at the end of the service, products and source material are recycled and reused completing a full cycle (CSIRO n.d.). Electronic devices and equipment are a gift to mankind and science and they are necessary tools for increasing welfare, and developing education and trade. The fruit comes with flaws, and hence, the price of digitization and long network connectivity is paid through the economic waste, large quantities of electronic waste is swept in drains which causes a lot of adverse effects and a high ecological footprint. According to a report in 2018, around 50 million metric tons of e-waste are generated all across the world, out of which, only 20% of the waste is recycled or reused through proper channelization. Better channelization and treatment of recycled electrical and electronic equipment can improve overall resources, improves sustainable production or consumption, and will contribute to a circular economy (Engineers Australia n.d.).
This assignment aims at analyzing the importance and challenges in developing an ethical and sustainable circular economy concerning the diverse roles of the stakeholders in managerial functions, practices, and strategies to ensure engineered sustainability in delivering the outcome
1. What are the challenges faced in a WEEE management system?
2. What role did key sustainability stakeholders play in managing e-waste?
3. What are the factors that affect the circular economy in general?
4. How do technological and social factors affect the E-Waste management in circular economy?
E-Waste Management, Circular Economy, and Engineering sustainability
Waste electrical and electronic equipment management or WEEE management is responsible for the waste electrical appliances by the manufacturer of the same. As per, Parajuly & Wenzel (2017), the rapid changes and innovation in the fields of technology have multiplied the usage of electronic and electric equipment (EEE). It is time that WEEE must be seen as a potential danger that can cause severe damage to both environment and human life. A low-cost solution is recycling the most End-of-Life (EoL) equipment in compliance with environmental norms. The recycling process includes procedures such as collection, disassembly, shredding, compression, etc. to collect and restore the rare and important elements that are wasted (Parajuly & Wenzel, 2017).
WEEE aims at recovering finer metals and rare natural elements to be restored and reused however the practices involved in recycling have not come across with the development of complex electronic devices. According to, Awasthi et al. (2019), many fine metals and elements are lost due to being in low concentrated quantities, and therefore the conventional restoration processes by WEEE cannot recycle that. Most restoration facilities can effectively separate steel and aluminum however fails to recover other important and unique metals. As per, Awasthi et al. (2019), first time, the WEEE directive was introduced was in 2003 and was amended in 2012. The directives of WEEE contain principles based on hierarchy to prioritize the management of preventing WEEE which involves activities such as reuse, recycling, and other restoration methods. Also, the WEEE Directive introduced the producer responsibility principle which states that a producer is financially responsible for the collection and treatment of WEEE. Similarly, EPR or extended producer responsibility aims at meeting the manufacturing process with EoL management in products to ensure efficient recycling and promote reuse (Awasthi et al. 2019).
The latest update on the European circular economy action plan also suggests that by developing better eco-design, we can extend the product lifecycle of certain electronic devices which will be good for the eco-system altogether.
The legislative framework for WEEE management
WEEE management is widely known to follow specific regulations and strategies that are engulfed in law and accept the extended producer responsibility as a key initiator in managing electronic waste. Cesaro et al. (2018) comments that all the electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) which involves tools that are powered by electromagnetism or electric current comes under the directive of WEEE. The WEEE directive by the EPR program makes EEE producers responsible for the recycling of post-consumer products. Recycling can be promoted and managing the cost of wastage that is assigned to the producer can be reduced by the implementation of the eco-design for EEE.
However, as per Cesaro et al. (2018), the development of a productive and sustainable management system depends not only upon its producers but all the stakeholders, operators, government bodies, and consumers that indulge in sustainable practices. The European WEEE Directive also made distributors responsible for availing an electronic item in the market. The role of a consumer in this is quite simple which is to participate in the collection of WEEE. This directive is put upon in ensuring that the environment is protected as well as materials are stored and collected for future use (Cesaro et al. 2018).
Structural analysis of Stakeholders
The paper gives the solution of Waste Management for dealing with the electronic waste and talks about the different stakeholders related to e-waste According to Pandey, Kaushal & Shukla (2022), there has been a huge increase in the amount of e-waste generation worldwide. This can be attributed to the increased rate of population growth, development in technology, and rapid urbanization. There has been a large increase in the amount of e-waste due to the frequent disposal of the used electronic gadgets which is a result of the rapid growth of information technology that needs frequent disposal of older gadgets. There is a presence of a large amount of toxic material in these e-wastes like heavy metals, and chemicals. This is a threat to environmental health and safety. Therefore, recycling this waste is a very important process. Pandey, Kaushal &Shukla (2022), states that for policymakers, the recycling of e-waste is a matter of huge concern. There has been the implementation of different policies on the production, recycling, and reuse of EEE. From the treatment stream, there can be a reduction in the amount of e-waste when recycling of EEE is done. Also, there is the comeback of valuable materials which can help in enhancing the economy. The work of collection and treatment of WEEE from the governments at the local level has been reduced by the policymakers of different countries by making different strategies like DRS (Deposit Refund Scheme), EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility), and PRO (Producer Responsibility organization).
Business models, Supply chain, and circular economy
From different sectors like business, government, and society the interest in the circular economy is increasing. It has been found that environmental, social, and financial benefits can be gained by shifting from a linear model to a circular model of economy According to Ferasso et al. (2020), by reuse of resources the emissions, waste leakage, and the use of energy can be reduced effectively. This can maintain a balance between the economy, environment, and society. The circular economy aims to generate new products from the items that are at the end of their lifecycle. This can help to reduce waste generation. In industrial ecosystems, these Closing material loops can be very economical and become a successful business model. Sustainability can also give a competitive advantage to the companies like that in the manufacturing sectors. The revenue models of the companies can become more frequent product-focused industries after the adaption of a circular model of economy. It can affect value proposition, value creation, and value capture, which are the three dimensions of a business model.
Some of the most contentious waste management policies is the transfer of harmful waste between developed to less developed countries. According to Xavier et al. (2021), there have been different conventions for this like the Basel Convention guidelines which came into action in 1989. This convention also includes a large amount of e-waste that is generated in these countries. The strategies which are needed for waste management are always not consistent with the principles of economics. This includes the strategies which are needed to transform the linear model of the management into a circular model. In e-waste management sustainability can be achieved by the promotion of the 3Rs principle which tells to reduce waste, reuse, and recycles resources and products. By using e closed-loop supply chain CE efficiency can be achieved. Special techniques like hydrometallurgical techniques can help to recover the metal components from e-waste. Especially by using selective leaching, selective precipitation, and liquid-liquid extraction technique this can be done. Xavier et al. (2021) suggests that, these techniques are not friendly to the environment so techniques like urban biomining techniques should be used which can help to recovery of non-renewable values fromthe recycled resources. This is also a more economical model.
Isernia et al. (2019) researched, various Sustainable business strategies formulated using the Circular Business model. For effective evaluation of the model, the performance of all the processes of the supply chain must be measured. The 8 staged process includes (1) Plan (2) Source (3) Make (4) Deliver (5) Use (6) Return (7) Recover (8) Enable. Various subprocesses must be augmented with the processes which may allow recovery, re-use, and maintenance of end-of-use products. Processes must be aligned such that they match with the resource availability, supply chain requirement, and sourcing of other materials that drastically lessen the waste, and make returns enable, a resource-efficient production, which enables buyback, and take-back programs, proper disposal, and sustainable packaging. The objective of Performance can be sub-grouped into performance objectives under a circular economy, Objectives that pivot on Triple Bottom Line, and objectives that specify a supply chain in a circular business model (Isernia et al. 2019).
Technology and e-waste
Waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) contains hazardous substances but it also includes valuable raw materials which can be extracted and reused. There are different techniques by which this extraction can be done. According to Batinic et al. (2018), the recycling rates all over the world are very negligible in today’s time. 27 raw materials were found from the e-waste that has high economic importance. Among these 27, 14 materials have nearly 100 % value in recycling. Critical raw materials like cobalt, tungsten, beryllium, gallium, tantalum, etc., precious metals like gold, silver, palladium, and platinum can be found in the raw materials of WEEE. Metals like europium, terbium, cerium, gadolinium, yttrium, etc. are also found which are called rare earth elements (REEs). So, recycling of WEEE within a circular economy plays a big economic role. Manual dismantling, shredding, and manual and/or mechanical separation can decrease the overall recycling efficiency. So specialized systematic approaches are needed for the recycling of the e- wastes. Adjustment of the pre-treatment process is needed so that appropriate output materials can be extracted. There should be increased collection rates of the product groups that contain CM so that more CMs can be recovered. Also, the structure and design of EEE products should be optimized which can in turn facilitates manual disassembly and enhance the recycling processes.
Challenges in Technical applications
There are many challenges en route to the application of technology, that may be Lack of finance, lack of government support, and Lack of skilled workers to name a few. There may be thought of acquiring better, and more innovative technologies to retrieve valuable elements from the electronic waste, but lack of funds does not allow buying of high-end machinery to retrieve those elements. The crude process of procurement comes at a very low cost, even though new technologies are welcomed, but pricing is a major issue. Government can act as a catalyst to rope in better and more sustainable technologies to treat, and manage e-waste. Everyone knows how dangerous it is to dump toxic materials such as Mercury, Arsenic, etc. but considering the cost of properly managing the waste, people find it easier to dump them. There are certain expensive metals like gold, and Silver that can be retrieved from old PCBs. A rough estimate is around 340 gms of Gold, and 3.4 kg of silver can be procured from such waste but lack of infrastructure, and skilled labor is a hindrance.
Recommendations for Australia
As we know that only around 20% of global e-waste is truly recycled whereas the rest of the toxic dump is usually incinerated or thrown in landfills. The solution for this is already well known which is the implementation and the problem is how? Many policies based on the circular economy have been legislated in the last 10 years (Kiron et al. 2017). To increase recovery performance, it is recommended that WEEE legislation be backed by major investments in training programs and building several capacities. Innovation and creativity in recycling techniques are needed to restore rare minerals from the e-waste. (Bailey & Shantz, 2018)
Facilitating an effective strategic approach to develop a circular economy for e-waste can be done in some ways:
• Aligning policies with the resource utilization process: The shift to a circular economy will require a set of changes in the policies at a macroeconomic level. An economic approach in a circular economy will be considered an economic matter which involves recognizing the economic benefits gained from its competitiveness, new opportunities, and innovation in businesses and resistance against scarcity of raw materials and fluctuating prices (Cucchiella et al. 2015).
• Covid 19 measures concerning resource utilization: The circular economy has the potential to support economic downpours if resource utilization includes Covid-19 measures. Shifting to a more resilient and effective circular economy will contribute to meeting long-term environmental objectives with better job allocation and economic growth, overall (Adejumo & Oluduro, 2021).
• Implementation of materials cycle: Improvements in the material cycle will include a shift from controlled disposal toward material restoration and recycling. Better energy recovery facilities need to be installed as residual wastes for the unrecycled e-waste.
• In the last 20 years, multiple environmental labeling and information schemes (ELIS) took place in varying scopes and sizes. Its implications are the same for both producers and consumers. The growing environmental labeling will lead to more confusion and loss of credibility. As facilitators and enablers, one must work towards harmonizing the field of environmental labeling and information schemes (Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003).
• Insufficient funds or technical expertise are basic obstructions for setting up waste management services or even implementing better resource allocation policies. As government bodies and facilitators, one must strengthen working on data, indicators, and effective resource allocation to develop a circular economy. It includes material information in an international database, improving research on environmental impacts and the cost of raw material utilized throughout the life cycle of minerals. (Services Australia, 2019)
The waste management system explains how the numerous constraints interact to construct platforms for the system to take the advanced recycling tools and techniques. The constraints are divided into 5 types based on their nature, such as organizational, economic, supply chain, market type, infrastructure, and technological. When these known problems affect the implementation of closed-loop solutions, the interaction among them increases the strength of the problems. Due to the scarcity of numerous raw materials, WEEE acts as an important source of secondary raw materials. It provides opportunities for future development in the Circular Economy to recycle e-waste by focusing on recovering important and rare metals which are strongly driven by EPR schemes.
Quantitative information from other sources has been used extensively for the insights into understanding the context-specificity of constraints and adapt the best course of action. This research work brings upon some managerial and societal contributions by WEEE and provides an important platform for future thesis and development in the methods of e-waste collection and recycling. It includes aspects of entrepreneurship training and perspective from business models of WEEE management. Key data and insight regarding managerial processes and practices in mining and collecting is a very important part of organizational sustainability.
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