Circular Economy’s Impact on the Tech Sector

.Emphasising circular economy in technology is a paramount principle. It has long been ingrained within the sector as their so many of their products facilitate repair. Electronic waste (or e-waste) is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world, with 61.3 million tonnes of global e-waste this year1. With it forecast to rise to 74.7 million by 20302, the management of electronic waste even more important when encouraging circularity.

Constructing electronics requires valuable finite resources like gold and aluminium. Disposal of these products creates wasteful practice and undermines sustainability efforts. The UK is among the world’s leading producers of household e-waste. When discarded electronics end up in landfills, toxins such as lead and mercury can be released into the soil and water3.

Effectively addressing sustainability requires overcoming the considerable challenge of managing waste within the tech sector. Investing in sustainable initiatives can significantly enhance an organisation’s reputation, considering the growing consumer preference for green products. This shift attracts a larger and more loyal customer base, contributing to improved profitability for the business.

Circular economy in technology seeks to end the cycle of society’s take-make-waste system. Better management of resources – and what happens to materials after a product’s life ends – will significantly lessen the impact we all leave on the environment.


Lifecycle management solutions for a leading media and entertainment company

At Unipart, we specialise in applying circular economy principles to the technology sector. We have been serving as a reliable business partner to a leading media and entertainment company for over a decade. And, with around one million TV streaming boxes needing an upgrad or replacement each year, sustainable disposal poses a significant challenge.

Effective waste management in the tech sector minimises environmental impact and optimises commercial returns from waste materials. By integrating repair operations within our customer’s inbound logistics, Unipart Logistics significantly reduced over 610 tonnes of CO2 (equivalent) from our customer’s Scope 3 emissions, due to the avoidance of waste going into landfill. Waste reduction efforts also involved implementing sustainable packaging solutions. This ensures zero plastic usage in any product or packaging, down to the use of paper tape.

Aligned with our 0% landfill policy, waste returns are meticulously managed. Upon reaching our distribution centres, waste is segregated into 23 separate streams, ensuring proper disposal. Last year, we recycled 2,270 tonnes of waste for the company, encompassing a portfolio of over 16,000 product lines.

As an integral part of the company’s dedication to environmental sustainability, Unipart Logistics plays a crucial role in minimising the impact of its supply chain. This involves close management of product life cycles and a steadfast commitment to fostering a circular economy. Since 2012, we have prevented 100% of the media and entertainment company’s engineer waste from reaching landfills by delivering recycling and reuse solutions, including:

  • Screening and diagnostics
  • Parts replacement
  • Electronics recycling 
  • Reclaim and reuse
  • Reselling and trade-in
  • Waste management


Circular Economy partnership with a major technology OEM 

Since 2006, Unipart has been in a transformative partnership with one of the world’s largest technology OEMs. We have provided them with a comprehensive reverse engineering function for mobile handsets, wearables, laptops, and recently finished goods distribution. For over a decade, Unipart has grown with this company; we have adapted to their dynamic needs and expanded our partnership and operations into new territories, such as the Middle East.

Unipart’s partnership with this company spans various services, including warranty management, full technical repair services, lifecycle management, and finished goods distribution. Unipart’s services cover the entire lifecycle of the OEM’s products, aiming to maximise asset value and circularity; services include:

  • Automated screening and accurate diagnostics to identify faults and third-party parts that void the warranty
  • Full technical repair services for a broad range of devices
  • High-value asset dispositioning, component reclaim, reintegration, and recycling.
  • Diagnostic data trend analysis to improve consumer services and feedback faults to manufacturers

We also play an important role in the company’s handset trade-in process, grading, screening, and repair ahead of disposition and resale.

Unipart’s technical engineering and repair function has been pivotal in managing and supporting the OEM’s laptop repair service. The operation has thrived, processing hundreds of orders per week while delivering an impressive turnaround of up to 90% on the same day and a commitment to achieving 100% by the next day turnaround time for repair.


Unipart’s approach to decarbonisation

We are dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint, with our 2040 net-zero target and 2030 near-term target of reaching at least a 90% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions being validated by the Science Based Targets initiative. We have adopted green electricity tariffs in UK Unipart Logistics’ sites, saving 6,000 tonnes of CO2 (equivalent) emissions, while implementing smart LED lighting systems has reduced emissions by up to 23%. Rainwater harvesting technologies have achieved predicted savings of 2,600 litres of water and £260 per year. Installation of push and sensor taps have enabled an 11% reduction in water consumption across sites.

Since 2016, Unipart has achieved zero waste to landfill, recycling 97% of waste (13,505 tonnes) last year. The remaining 3% was directed to local energy-from-waste plants supporting district heating schemes. Unipart Logistics saw a 37% reduction in combined Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (market-based) in 2022, from a 2021 baseline and a 16% decrease in energy consumption from 2021 to 2022.

This reduction in carbon output and resource consumption underscore Unipart’s dedicated commitment to our journey of carbon reduction. Our extensive knowledge and expertise in sustainability, particularly in the technology sector and related fields, have been cultivated through our firsthand experiences and achievements. Leveraging our successes in warehousing and transport, we offer consulting, LLP, and contract logistics solutions. Our expertise, coupled with innovative tools, enables the identification of inefficiencies and integration of sustainable practices to illuminate the path to net-zero. We can replicate for you what we’ve accomplished for ourselves.

Click here to read more on our sustainable operations solutions, including green warehousing, and how these steps can be personalised to your organisation’s decarbonisation goals. 


  1. IEMA – IEMA marks International E-Waste Day 2023, joining calls to highlight invisible e-waste – October 2023
  2. World Economic Forum – Projected electronic waste generation worldwide from 2019 to 2030 (in million metric tons) – July 2020 
  3. Professor Richard Herrington  – What is e-waste and what can we do about it? – July 2020