The shift from a traditional linear business model towards a circular approach that focuses on prolonging product lifetime (maintaining the use of products, components and materials and retaining their value) through reuse, refurbishing, and recycling is gathering pace. In this article, we share thoughts on how Axis and the surveillance sector can contribute to resource conservation by designing long-lasting, high-quality, products that take advantage of materials to eliminate waste.
Discarded electronic and electrical goods – e-waste – is the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. In 2023 to date, e-waste has amounted to over 16 million tons worldwide. While consumer electronics and appliances have traditionally been the most significant contributor, the surveillance sector has also added to this waste production.
One way to minimize waste is to shift from traditional, linear, industrial processes to a circular model that extends product lifetime. The term “circular economy” isn’t a new term, having found mainstream appeal in the 2010s through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Aiming ultimately to disrupt the linear economy, they write: “We must transform all the elements of the take-make-waste system: how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterward. Only then can we create a thriving economy that can benefit everyone within the limits of our planet.”
The transition to circularity is a gradual one, but we at Axis have asked ourselves how we can be a part of it. Here, we explore the steps we are taking towards a circular approach.
The evolving regulatory environment
The need for more eco-friendly practices has come hand-in-hand with the introduction of new regulations and frameworks, most notably the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to create a sustainable future for our planet.
In Europe specifically, the European Commission has introduced its new Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to achieve a carbon-neutral, sustainable, and fully circular economy by 2050. In line with the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal under the Green Deal, the action plan encourages sustainable product design and waste reduction, with particular focus on electronics and virgin, fossil-based plastics – such as polycarbonate-based materials.
The EU has further emphasized this through its recent Sustainable Product Policy Initiative, which aims for ‘green’ products to become the norm for industry use. Initiatives like this are urging companies, particularly those in resource intensive industries like the surveillance sector, to prioritize more sustainable practices when it comes to product use and design.
Extending the product lifecycle
To transition to a circular approach in line with these regulations, we as an industry need to retain product value for as long as possible. Extending the product lifecycle is an essential part of the circular economy, as it helps to minimize the use of additional resources when creating new products.
At Axis, we have always designed products to ensure they are long-lasting and durable. Materials must meet both quality and functional requirements, while minimizing environmental impact.
To ensure our products are of high quality, we run extensive testing procedures to verify their long-term properties. Whether this is outdoor testing to ensure they will continue to work correctly in adverse weather conditions, or running fail-safe tests to ensure they meet safety regulations both now and in the future, these tests ensure our products are resilient. To reflect this, we recently extended our product warranty across our portfolio from three to five years – an example of our efforts to be more circular.
Our ambition is to be a leading company today and tomorrow
“Our ambition is to be a leading company today and tomorrow,” says Ausra Reinap, Senior Environmental Engineer. “And we see sustainability as one of the most important pillars. Minimizing our negative environmental impact throughout our products’ lifecycles is an integral part of what we do. It’s also important that we’re fulfilling our customers’ expectations and requirements in offering products with a low environmental footprint.”
Phasing out hazardous substances
To protect ecosystems, we as an industry need to eliminate the use of hazardous substances at the design stage. At Axis, we are conscious that our products should not contain any materials that are harmful to the environment. This requires strong cooperation with our suppliers throughout the value chain, to ensure we have visibility of every material used. If we identify a hazardous substance, we work with our suppliers and partners to source alternatives.
Through this process, we have now launched cameras that are BFR (brominated flame retardant) free and CFR (chlorinated flame retardant) free. The development of products that are free from hazardous substances, without compromising fire safety, has been a key milestone for us at Axis. In addition, 90 percent of the network cameras and encoders we launched in 2022 are PVC (polyvinyl chloride) free. This reflects our goal for all of our cameras launched next year to be BFR/CFR free – and for all products launched in 2025 to be PVC/BFR/CFR free.
Prioritizing ‘green design’
At Axis, we have also incorporated green design into our product development. There are now a growing number of more robust and long-lasting alternatives to virgin, fossil-based plastics, which are increasingly being recognized as high-end materials to be used in surveillance products. When upgrading existing products and using renewable carbon-based plastics, for instance, some sustainable materials have been found to be more effective and resilient than the virgin plastics used historically.
We are striving to develop products with a higher content of renewable carbon-based plastics to minimize our impact on the environment. Our goal is for all Axis designed products launched in 2024 to include more than 20 percent renewable carbon-based plastics. We are well on our way to achieving this: last year, we doubled our total consumption of renewable carbon-based plastics from 51.5 to 100 metric tons. As a result, 56 percent of all Axis cameras launched in 2022 contain recycled and/or bio-based and/or carbon capture-based plastics.
Of course, the shift to more sustainable alternatives will take time. As an industry, we still have a long road ahead of us when it comes to green design. The challenge here is that we cannot compromise the product quality, functional requirements, and safety in favour of using more sustainable materials. It is crucial to meet industry regulations, and currently there is a limited pool of certified, sustainable materials available.
Nonetheless, progress is being made – albeit more slowly than desired – and we at Axis are continuing to contribute to this through our green design. “This is no small challenge as all electronic products, including Axis products, use a number of finite materials,” says Ausra. “Turning to a circular model is a continuous journey. We already see mineral shortages and know that they will increase, so we must re-think our designs to future-proof our business.”
Value chain collaboration is crucial
To dig deeper, a few years ago we participated in a project sponsored by Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova, ‘Circular and biobased economy – from theory to practice’. The project was initiated by design and innovation agency Zenit Design, a long-time Axis collaborator.
The project showed us that, as a product developer and designer, you are at the center of all the products and services being developed, produced, consumed, and disposed of. How circular they are must be considered at every stage and in every decision. If we truly want to make a change, it must be prioritized throughout the entire organization and wider supply chain.
The project also gave us a thorough understanding of critical challenges in the future. These include the importance of recognizing various customer needs, different legislation, and knowing how recycling and recovery infrastructure differ across the markets where we operate.
“We weren’t looking for a ready-made solution,” Ausra says. “The project aimed to broadly map out the current situation as well as threats and opportunities, both for Axis and other value chain stakeholders. We learned a lot and now know better what we want and what we need to do.
“But we’ve also seen how complex this area is,” she adds. “There are strict limits as to how much we can do on our own. Collaboration throughout the value chain is crucial to make it happen.”
Circularity as an industry change
The move to a circular future doesn’t come without its challenges, and it may be some years to come before ‘green’ is seen as the norm. Yet, as an industry, we can minimize our impact on the environment while providing end-users with high quality, long-lasting, and resilient products.
“It’s essential that we take our responsibility to drive change seriously, educating our partners and other stakeholders, and increasing the demands we make of them,” says Ausra. “It’s also more important than ever that we truly understand their various needs and aspirations so that we can support them in their own transformation towards circularity.”
“As Axis is a responsible company, we need to move towards a circular business approach. I can’t see a future without it. We must challenge ourselves, but also our partners. It’s time for the surveillance sector to collaborate and change together.”