After a warm summer weekend, our office neighborhood is often littered with electric scooters, abandoned by their casual users. Some are out of battery, some broken. When our harbor sea water is clear, one can spot a few on the bottom too.
Scooter rental companies painstakingly collect and recharge these fleeting assets, but often the city ends up cleaning at least the broken ones. Plastic, lithium, steel, rubber – very recyclable stuff, but no-one’s primary interest, it seems.
Producing vehicles like this on the other side of the planet, freighting them here and then discarding them after a few months of use is really not environmentally sustainable. It also instigates a wrong kind of mindset into this fashionable pay-per-use industry, as if real sustainability would not be important.
Many goods like weapons and cars have strict rules on their safety, trackability and recycling options. Their lifecycle is at least partly managed, and the responsibility is largely at the manufacturer.
What if we, with spimes & digital twins, extend this responsibility to all manufacturers of goods that have an environmental impact, no matter where they are produced? Each scooter would have a digital twin, tracking its lifecycle and at the end the manufacturer would have to ensure the product is not just fired and forgotten. This partly works already on the reseller level, where an electric appliance seller must also arrange recycling. But these are initial, feeble steps.
A new digital twin economy could drastically improve the environmental footprint of industries while at the same time it would foster new innovation and data-centric services to customers. Clever regulation would drive manufacturing closer to end users, reducing the absurd back-and-forth hauling of e.g. scrap metals and goods between US/Europe and Asia.
Sustainable companies can take this responsibility and act like village blacksmiths to their customers, taking care of the whole lifecycle of the product and customers’ use cases. This just needs a bit of old and new – and long term thinking. The real future merchandise is the spime, the next-generation digital twin, which makes the customer relationship alive. Globally, not just in one village.