The European Union (EU) has urged the Philippine electronics industry to review its existing circular economy principles and practices following a new Nordic Council of Ministers’ study recommending the drive towards a circular economy for the electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) sector.
The report aims to drive the EEE sector towards a circular economy by encouraging companies to take on board circular design principles and improve material markings and identifications. It is also pushing for legislation mandating a circular economy for the EED sector.
The study, titled “Designing Plastics Circulation Electrical and Electronic Products”, found that some 80% of the pollution and 90% of the manufacturing costs associated with EEE are the result of decisions made at the product design stage, and called for new circular design principles to be put in place.
Using recycled plastic in an electrical or electronic product could reduce its environmental impact by over 20%, while up to half of the 1.2 million tons of waste electrical and electronic equipment plastics in the EU could be recycled, up from the current rate of 20%.
The study builds on the EU strategy for plastics in a circular economy and the recently EU-enacted single-use plastics directive, as well as the Nordic program to reduce the environmental impact of plastics.
However, the present report goes further than the design for recycling strategy called for in previous report, by introducing the concept of circular design. This suggests that the EEE sector may become the next major industry where the European Union focuses its efforts on reducing plastics consumption.
“The ultimate goal should be designing and setting up a system that enables circulation, taking products back and reprocessing material back to the same product over and over again,” said the report.
The report has four recommendations to achieve a circular economy in the EEE sector.
One is for companies to develop and implement circular design strategy and principles to ensure they are “future-fit in a changing and resource-scarce business environment.”
The report also recommends improving material identification and harmonizing plastics use. “Incorrect markings on plastics have resulted in a situation whereby recyclers don’t trust the markings and therefore different types of plastics are not separated even if it were technologically possible,” said the report. Coupled with the issue of identification is the opportunity to harmonize plastics use.
Third is to have legislation requiring the use of recycled content to speed up the market transition towards circularity. In addition, requirements for circular design principles, especially reparability, modularity, upgradability, and ease of disassembly could be first encouraged in the form of sector-wide principles and gradually formulated into requirements.
The last recommendation is to embed environmental calculations into the decision-making process.
“To operate within planetary boundaries, it is necessary to ensure that products are designed, manufactured and circulated in such a way that truly takes us closer to a circular economy. Calculating avoided environmental costs provide a good business case and foundation for decision-making when starting a circular journey,” said the report. — Edu Lopez