Circular Electronics Day: Innovative devices and new research projects

The Circular Electronics Day aims to extend the lifespan of electronic equipment and avoid electrical waste. We talked to Shift managing director Samuel Waldeck about innovative devices and new research projects.

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On January 24th, 2021 the Circular Electronics Day will take place for the fourth time, which aims to extend the lifespan of electronics and thus to a more sustainable future.

In 2019, around 50 million tons of electronic waste were produced worldwide; Waste, that contains dangerous and environmentally harmful substances, as well as valuable metals and minerals, finite raw materials, which mostly could be well recyclable and then react to the renewed degradation.

Our current environmental problems have been brought to a linear economy: mining raw materials, selling products and throwing them away after a short period of use.

The concept of the circular economy does not end with throwing away, but sees in discarded relationships a life of raw material stores, which has to be cultivated.

Before that, there are still a number of ways to extend the useful life of electronic devices.

We speak to Samuel Waldeck, Managing Director of Shift GmbH, who have launched with “the Shiftphone” a modular smartphone and are currently announcing the first universal all-in-one device in computer history with the “SHIFTmu”.

The Shiftphone is considered a sustainable smartphone, but it is also a new product that has to be produced. Nevertheless, you communicatw resource conservation compared to conventional PC / smartphone use. How do you do this?

Samuel Waldeck: We achieve a lot of resource conservation, for example, through our own factory in Hangzhou, China. All components of technological products are manufactured in Asia. To send them all individually to Germany, only to carry out the final assembly here, would mean much more packaging waste and CO2 emissions. We collect the individual components on the spot, manufacture the final product and then send it compactly to Falkenberg in one delivery.

Also, a mint Shiftphone doesn't have to be made of new materials. We return plastic parts of old and defective devices such as back covers or bumpers to production so new components can be made from them.

As a universal computing device, SHIFTmu should take another big step forward in terms of resource conservation and - we hope - to be an innovator. We are surrounded by a variety of computers and devices: smartphones, tablets, notebooks, detachables, desktops, smart TVs, digital assistants and many more. All of these devices are (currently) equipped with powerful and therefore also cost-intensive hardware that has to be produced with great effort and using valuable resources. With the SHIFTmu, the user only needs a powerful and intelligent basis, which he can expand with the desired Use-Cases and repair himself and inexpensively thanks to our modular design approach. This enables production volumes to be significantly reduced and less waste and electronic waste to be generated. More information about SHIFTmu can be found on our blog.

Shiftphone is the German alternative to the fairphone. How fair are you ? How fair can you be in the electronics industry?
Samuel Waldeck: It's an exciting question. The production of a fair smartphone is - at our discretion - not (yet) 100% possible at the present time. However, this is not a justification for giving up, it simply means that a lot of research, patience, influence and contact work is required to approach the goal of a fair technology product. Our current impact report shows that we have already achieved a lot in the past few years. We define ourselves less by the term 'fair' than by the word 'appreciation'. It is important to us to treat customers, employees, partners and, of course, our environment in an appreciative, careful and considerate manner. This basic setting helps us every day to further optimize our devices in terms of fairness and sustainability.

A very important step for us in terms of fairness, for example, has been the establishment of our own technology factory in Hangzhou, China. Around 10 employees are involved in the final assembly of our Shiftphones here. Since it is our own company, we can provide working conditions for which we would like to work ourselves (here in Germany). This includes regular working hours, a 40-hour week, comprehensive insurance measures, a family atmosphere as well as a pleasant office atmosphere. Conditions that are rather atypical for Chinese conditions. 

Carsten had the opportunity to speak to the IFA + Summit audience in September. The title of the article was "Shift happens! From Dataism to Valuism - Running a Social Business in a highly competitive Market." – In the lecture, our products will be treated as a secondary topic. Rather, it is about understanding our time, the changes we are moving towards and how economics in this context should work wisely and changing. This article expresses very well what we understand by appreciation and fair dealings with one another:


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