Circular Electronics Partnership
This project contributes to the following Calls to Action from the Circular Economy Action Agenda for Electronics:
1. Incentivize and Support Product Design for Circularity
2. Enable Producers to Increase Sourcing of Recycled Content
6. Set Up Effective Collection Systems
7. Enable Efficiency and Transparency in Compliant and Responsible Transboundary Movement
8. Strategically Plan and Install Sorting, Pre-Processing, and Recycling Operations.
“The Circular Electronics Partnership offers a pre-competitive, industry platform for the electronics value chain to take coordinated action towards a circular economy.”
- Brendan Edgerton, Circular Economy Director WBCSD
Short-term: Produce a Vision for circular electronics and a Roadmap for how the industry can achieve it. At the point of publication of these documents, CEP will commence five projects across the life cycle, coming out of the Roadmap and actioned by its Partners.
Long-term: CEP establishes a global community of leading organizations and companies committed to a circular electronics industry, monitoring progress against the Roadmap and catalyzing coordinated action with key stakeholders.
Electronics are one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors and have improved our everyday life in many ways. They allow individuals around the world to participate in the global marketplace, facilitated access to educational material and services and expanded access to healthcare in many regions.
The flip side of this development is the ever-growing stream of e-waste created by the global community. The following factors contribute to this development:
Electronic goods get cheaper and more accessible
Fast innovation cycles lead to the disposal of still-functioning devices
Most electronic products are not built to last
In 2018, 50 million metric tonnes of electronics were disposed of. The material value of this e-waste is estimated to be at around $57 billion – more than the GDP of most countries. Yet, only 17.4% of e-waste is dealt with appropriately.
Most e-waste ends up in landfills or is disposed of by informal workers under hazardous working conditions. The consequences range from health risks for workers and their communities to polluted groundwater sources.
A circular economy for electronics represents significant potential value for businesses, communities and the environment. However, approaches are highly diverse and fragmented.
In 2019, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the World Economic Forum (WEF), PACE, and the United Nations E-waste Coalition (including ITU) united key players in the electronics industry behind “A New Circular Vision for Electronics”. In this report, they not only mapped the current challenges but also opportunities of a ‘system upgrade’ - and what is needed to achieve them.
They set our three vision objectives for the transition to a more sustainable electronics economy:
1. Significant increase in recyclability and recycled content of new products
2. Significant extension of product lifetime
3. Significant increase in collection rates and high-quality recycling
Following the launch of the report, the Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP) evolved between the report’s authors with an expanded alliance including Responsible Business Alliance, Global Electronics Council and Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative.
Plan of Action
CEP unites seven organizations, as well as their respective private sector members, in a comprehensive and credible alliance. By bringing key companies and organizations in the electronics sector and the circular economy to the table, CEP establishes a network of networks of coordinated action.
While the initiative is managed by all partner organizations, its secretariat is hosted by WBCSD.
In March 2021, the seven partner organizations collaboratively developed and launched a Vision for Circular Electronics, a Roadmap for Circular Electronics and kick-started five projects responding to the Roadmap.
International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
World Economic Forum (WEF)
Responsible Business Alliance (RBA)
Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)
Green Electronics Council (GEC)
Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE)
Recovery of Key Metals in the Electronics Industry in the People’s Republic of China - September 2018
New Vision for Electronics
Circular Electronics Partnership
Ambition of New Vision for Electronics
Unite key stakeholders around an initial vision for electronics, which uses circular economy principals to redefine the electronics value chain and can be translated into a clear action plan.
Why do we need a new vision for the electronics sector?
Electronic goods have become an integral part of our everyday life and bring significant benefits to humanity. They allow us to expand access to education, deliver healthcare to more people and facilitate trade around the world.
At the same time, the current system of production and consumption poses several challenges for people and our planet at each stage:
Resource use: Across the whole value chain – mining, manufacturing, transport, retail, consumption and disposal of electronics – vast amounts of resources are wasted.
End of life: Fast innovation circles and increasingly affordable products encourage users to buy new products more often, leading to the disposal of still functioning devices. But collection rates for devices are low – in Europe alone, 100 million old mobile phones are considered to be sitting in their owner’s drawers.
Disposal: In 2018, 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated, with a material value of around $55 billion – yet, only 20% is being formally recycled. The rest is disposed by informal workers or ends up in landfill, posing a health risk to the workers and their communities and polluting water sources and food supply chains.
How can the electronics sector become more sustainable?
Applying circular economy principles to the electronics sector would allow us to progress towards a more sustainable way of producing, consuming and disposing of electronic goods. To capture this opportunity, we need
- New and innovative business models
- Different approaches to design
- Technologies to re-manufacture and recycle electronic devices more efficiently
Electronics producers will play an important role in driving the transition. However, they can’t do this alone. Governments need to create the right policies and incentives, and international organizations and academics will need to contribute to developing the right frameworks.
Plan of action
To unite all key stakeholders needed for the transition from a linear to a circular economy for electronics, this initiative created a cross-sector global platform with the following ambitions:
- Convene key actors from the public and private sector to align on a New Vision for Electronics
- Align around two or more workstreams that will contribute to circular e-waste globally
- Create a platform for high level collaboration on building a circular economy for electronics globally
- Increase coordination between UN Agencies, Companies and governments on country and regional level projects on electronics and e-waste
The project resulted in the report “A New Circular Vision for Electronics” that was presented by PACE and the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the United Nations E-waste Coalition in 2019. It concluded with three vision elements:
- Significant increase in recyclability and recycled content of new products
- Significant extension of product lifetime
- Significant increase in collection rates and high-quality recycling
Global Battery Alliance
Long term ambition
Global Battery Alliance seeks to ensure that the battery value chain is socially responsible, environmentally and economically sustainable and innovative.
By 2025, the battery market will reach $100 billion, primarily driven by the growing global stock of electric vehicles. However, this growth comes at a social and environmental toll
Raw materials needed for batteries are linked to social and environmental issues
No scaled systems are in place to enable re-use and recycling of over 11 million tons of the spent lithium-ion batteries forecast to be discarded by 2030
Innovation potential remains unexploited along the value chain, holding back greater supply chain transparency, business model and technological innovation
Support responsible and sustainable supply chains of key raw materials
Accelerate the transition towards a circular economy for batteries
Support collaboration to unlock innovation along the value chain
With respect to circular economy pillar in the Alliance:
The circular economy market and its potential evolution over time will be assessed in a scoping study (by early 2019)
Opportunities to lower repurposing and re-use costs for batteries will be assessed (e.g. standard-setting, establishing a framework to help address regulatory and liability challenges)
Barriers to recycling of electric vehicle battery will be quantified and a public-private pilot launched to test scalable solutions
A portable electronics collection pilot is being scoped to test how materials can be recovered more efficiently