Combating the Industry’s Unspoken Problem: Electronic Packaging Waste

The custom electronics industry has a serious problem that is rarely discussed openly: electronic packaging waste. The only way to solve this problem is for fabricators and installers – the people who end up dealing with the waste – to work together.

We haven’t seen much like a “waste summit” or a public speaking out from manufacturers or integration companies on this topic. So while we wait for any development there, I wanted to take a closer look at the issue and think about why it should be considered a top priority in the industry.

Although headlines might glance at this article and think, “Huh, going green? Yeah, I’ve heard it time and time again,” they might not stop to think about the relative silence on trash when it comes to the custom electronics industry.

Is it because the industry does not see how to get around the problem? If so, that would seem to reflect the general public’s view of Google regarding packaging waste. The graph below, created with Google Trends, analyzes the overall search volume of queries related to the topic:

As you can see, “packaging waste” didn’t even overtake “electronic packaging” in search volume until just a few years ago, and neither topic received much hit. attention recently compared to the year 2004.

Of course, these data are very subjective and do not tell us much. But the fact that packaging waste – phrased here to mean ANY type, not just electronics packaging – hasn’t gotten much attention from people interested enough to google it in the first place. , testifies to the idea that the problem is not of primary importance. to the general public.

So why should it be so for the audiovisual industry?

Installers don’t want to deal with it

Many installers have commented on my blog on Commercial Integrator out of solidarity and frustration, citing excess packaging as a major issue in their installations.

Ben Stigler from Performing Arts Audio reached out to say that Pro Audio is full of electronics packaging waste.

“Each short BNC cable for 1/4 wave antenna to the front panel is in its own bag. There will always be a pair, why not put them together? Or better, put them in a large ziplock bag with all other mid-size brackets, rubber feet, etc., and eliminate individual sleeves.If you’re worried about scratching the black paint on the rack bracket, wrapped in recycled paper, not plastic.

“Some cable makers ship 1,000′ pop boxes with a wooden spool inside the box. This may be necessary to prevent some types of cables from twisting when the cable is pulled out, but it also leads to significant waste. Our area doesn’t burn a lot of wood (air quality issues), and those spools end up in landfills or maybe compost. »

Kenneth Williams, who works for Auburn University, lamented the ubiquitous use of polystyrene foam in AV electronics packaging.

“I also save and reuse resealable bags. And I have a boatload of extra screws and I often find uses for them. What I’m saying is I’m trying to do my part, but the industry often chooses the cheapest way to protect their product or, more often, goes well above cost to impress the buyer, but in the process, overpacks the items. ”

A commenter on the “AV Install Nightmares” Facebook group echoed the desire of many bulk packaging installers.

“Very annoying…There must be a bulk packaging option for the items,” they said.

Little progress made against electronic packaging waste

Before you start presenting yourself with statistics, think about the reality of a of the following facts, and what it means for the planet as a whole.

Put aside the inconvenience to you of disposing of excess styrofoam and imagine the inconvenience this poses to humanity as a whole as the world’s populations increase:

What the Custom Electronics Industry Can Do

Nearly endless volumes have been composed on the ease of neglecting responsibility. It’s far, far too easy to think, “humans create waste there is nothing we can do about it… And it’s even easier to look at it from a narrower point of view: “Does this small gesture really make a difference?

If I have to pose an answer to this question, maybe there really is no hope.

More seriously, I’m not going to pose a problem without at least making a few suggestions to remedy it:

Integrators should hold technology manufacturers accountable

As insinuated earlier, installers are the ones who really have to deal with the consequences of electronic packaging waste, it follows that they are in the best position to inform manufacturers of the problems they encounter around this.

In fact, it seems to me that integrators are the primary way to attack this problem, as long as they aren’t afraid to be specific in their thoughts on packaging a particular product.

Related: Best Buy launches Haul-Away recycling service for home electronics

It’s this specific use case information that will give manufacturers’ product designers something actionable to bring back to the packaging design drawing board.

Even if you don’t have specific ideas for them, simply reaching out to your local representative (and encouraging your industry peers to do the same) can make a difference.

“I often call out to companies about unnecessary plastic. Take a picture, tag them on a public social media platform asking what the extra plastic is for,” said one user of the AV Install Nightmares Facebook group.

“I get a lot of positive responses. This is unacceptable. A lot of packaging is essential to get it to the site safely, but a huge amount is nothing more than superficial.

The promise of bioengineering

With a little ingenuity, the days of non-biodegradable packaging materials may be behind us.

There is a company that fuses agricultural waste with a specific type of mushroom to produce an economical alternative to polystyrene foam. But they’re far from alone in designing alternatives, and their work took off in 2009.

More than 10 years later, bioengineering processes have improved their profitability and created an entire industry around biodegradable electronic packaging waste. There are now far too many options to list here, but suffice it to say: AV manufacturers, if you’re reading this you know what to do.

Bulk packaging needs a rebrand

Another requirement from manufacturers: please try to use bulk packaging whenever possible. Not only would this make life easier for the installer, but it would also reduce cardboard and plastic film waste.

Recycling incentive programs

I can’t lecture seasoned business leaders on how to do their jobs, but doesn’t it make sense that if you want your business to be even vaguely philanthropic, you need to provide incentives?

I mentioned ways for integrators to hold manufacturers accountable, but the reverse must also happen if the industry is to take this issue seriously.

Incentive programs that reward partner installers for ingenious packaging reuse or extra dedication to recycling could be effective. Let’s face it, you were going to create some sort of incentive program anyway, weren’t you? Why not center one around that?

Tackling electronics packaging waste won’t be easy, but the custom electronics industry is uniquely positioned to do its part. Let’s start spreading the word and hopefully we’ll form better habits.

This post was created on our partner site, Commercial Integrator.

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