The circular economy of ICT

13 Nov 2020 10:40h - 12:10h

Event report

Mr Leandro Moldes (Associate Professor Department of Computer Architecture, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya), the moderator, in defining the parameters of the discussion stated that the number of devices in any group is two to three times the number of persons in the group, leading to many more ICT devices than people globally. Many are continuously manufactured and, due to their limited lifespans, many are non-functional and contribute significantly to waste in landfills.

Ms Roura Mieria (Operations Manager, eReuse) indicated that in the last year USD $57 billion worth of material was consumed in making devices. Effectively, devices are made using a linear model from manufacture and use, to disposal, but building devices in a circular model would use resources as long as possible to minimise or remove waste. These devices both consume energy and produce waste and have significant environmental consequences.

Mr Rozália Bako (Research Consultant, StrawberryNet Foundation; Associate Professor at Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania), a Romanian sociologist, referenced an upcoming Romanian report from the Association for Progressive Communications and a guide on the circular economy that they have been developing. The European green deal is requiring EU countries to be climate neutral by 2050 and the increasing environmental effects of ICT devices is concerning. Among the upcoming Ecodesign Directive, the right to repair ICTs is prioritised. The European Commission is advancing a circular electronics initiative to encourage longer product lifetimes, but legal, policy, and economic support must exist for an open repair environment to motivate consumers to opt for repair over replacement.

Miera indicated that at eReuse a model has been proposed that creates local ecosystems with multistakeholders with different roles that intercooperate to capture, remanufacture, and recirculate electronic devices. The end user is not the owner of the device, but the device is under common ownership to ensure fair assessment of the reuse value. The governance of the ecosystem that is developed creates environmental jobs; sustainability is managed through fairly charging end users for the service.

Mr Anders Andrae (Senior Expert of Energy Efficiency/Emission Reduction/Ecodesign/Sustainability/LCA, Huawei Technologies) advocated for high value and volume devices like the wi-fi router as a focus vs lower volume devices. Andrae also highlighted a challenge since the progression of technology and circuits makes re-use not straightforward, requiring a clear assessment. Anders postulated that this requires an economic strategy rather than an environmental strategy, which will motivate vendors and consumers to promote reuse.

Bako mentioned a strategy by a Romanian telecom provider who launched a repair campaign, rather than to encourage consumers to purchase new devices. Andrae highlighted how the network upgrades drive mobile handset improvements and that reuse has limits.

Many comments from the audience circulated around the value of the IGF as a space for advancing these discussions and finding ways to collaborate and to get independent repair shops involved in the conversation, which requires an open repair policy for it to work as the current environment creates a great dependence on the manufacturers.