The increase in the so-called e-waste, the equivalent of 4,500 Eiffel towers in 2016, can hardly be mitigated by recycling alone, a term that comes from our current linear economy and which, if applied at 100%, would only reduce our carbon footprint by 1.6%, clearly we will not reach the 50% reduction target by 2050.
The amount of obsolete electronic equipment is further driven by relatively short replacement cycles. Since technology changes quickly, many users replace devices, such as their mobile phone, regularly and often before the devices break. This and other factors generated a volume of 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste in 2016.
Only 20% (8.9 Mt) of waste is documented to be collected, and the fate of 76% (34.1 Mt) of e-waste is unknown; likely dumped, traded, or recycled under unknown conditions. Dumping into landfills leads to toxins leaking into the environment, and incineration leads to emissions in the air. These disposal scenarios exist in both developed and developing countries and are not satisfactory, because they lead to a loss of secondary resources and damage the environment.
Electronic Reuse Platforms
Public administrations and local circular economy entities have formal, scalable and sustainable reuse platforms that offer traceability and guarantee proper recycling. City councils deliver device surpluses to citizens and organizations, with great effect in creating inclusive jobs, starting or accelerating efficiency and scaling up of local exchange/market of second hand computers and mobiles, and related jobs of transport, refurbishment, support, recycling.
The users of devices are citizens that prefer second hand devices for environmental reasons, citizens in risk of exclusion supported or advised by public social services, and organizations demanding larger volume of devices such as schools, social enterprises, environment or budget-concerned public or private organizations. Citizens benefit from a pool of devices at a lower economic and environmental cost, at well as creating local jobs (in social and commercial organizations) for the collection, refurbishment and support (computing-as-a-service) by locals for locals.
The platforms in Barcelona
The platforms in Barcelona provide the following benefits: 20 consolidated workplaces in 18 social reuse centers, 500.000 €/year of social economy created, 350.000 €/year in cost savings on subsidies from city governments related to addressing digital divide, waste prevention (92% of the devices given are reused) and 43 ton in savings of electronic waste and 864 ton of GHG emissions from usage of second hand devices, increased guarantee of recycling (95%) with recovery of raw materials (last year in Europe only 35%), development of the local economy, digital inclusion from the affordable supply of second hand (400 entities recipients of equipment each year), 16 million of computing hours created each year.