Like most manufacturers, we consider the environmental impact of all aspects of our operations and are constantly seeking ways to minimise our footprint.
With product lifetimes in many areas such as mobile phone shortening, the waste from electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), also known as electronic waste or e-waste, has become one of the fastest growing waste problems worldwide.
According to a 2020 study, waste printed circuit boards (PCBs) account for between 3 and 6% by weight of the total electronic waste generated worldwide.
This is a considerable burden given the challenges in dealing with these items.
Scrap bare PCBs (i.e. unpopulated PCBs) contain small amounts of copper which can be recycled. However, the FR4 epoxy glass laminate, which typically constitutes most of the bare PCB, cannot be recycled back to its constituent parts.
And removing parts from populated PCBs to then reuse them is neither practical nor economical.
What all this means is that the production of PCBs which are neither wanted nor needed has the potential to leave behind a significant legacy of waste for future generations.
Typically, PCBS are manufactured in multiples of 12, 24, or 48 from a single panel, depending on the size and complexity of the final PCB.
Taking steps to avoid manufacturing a full panel of PCBs, when not that many are actually needed, is one area where manufacturers can do their bit to minimise the problems caused by e-waste – and that is something we have been reviewing at Mascot for a while.
As an example, a customer may order 1,000 items at a time from us. But if the PCBs are manufactured, say, 24 to a panel, that means that to supply exactly 1,000 would mean 16 PCBs being manufactured which were not required for that order. And the reality is that the customer may not require exactly 1,000 – we’ve known instances, for example, where a customer has requested a few extra to ensure stocks do not run out.
Based on this, we’re now taking the novel approach of adjusting order quantities in order to match the number of PCBs on a panel, or a multiple thereof.
It’s an area where, as a company, we believe we can make a difference – and we hope our customers will be happy to work together with us on this for the sake of the environment.