Concepts

The terms recycling and reuse are often used as synonyms, it is incorrect, “recycle” refers to the process in which a raw material is used again to create something new. “Reuse” means use a product or its components it again for the same purpose or find another use for the item, What is the reuse of electronics?

The concept of circular economy can become very elastic. Its meaning can vary drastically depending on the interests of the person who defines, uses and implements it. For example, it is considered circular to burn waste for the generation of energy. If accepted, but will the burning of a product that could have been reused continue to be considered as circular? What is the Circular Economy of Electronics?

The entities federated to ereuse.org recondition and resell used devices such as mobiles, laptops or desktops. This members also create open, local and autonomous reuse platforms that brings automation, traceability and auditability in all the steps in the life time of devices with the aim of efficiently implementing the circular economy in electronics. What is an Electronic Reuse Platform?

In cities, city councils deliver device surpluses to ereuse.org members with great effect in creating inclusive jobs, starting or accelerating efficiency and scaling up formal, scalable and sustainable reuse platforms with great environmental, social and economic benefit. What is the impact of a reuse platform?

What is the reuse of electronics?

The reuse of electronic devices such as desktops, laptops or mobile phones is applied to devices that have already been manufactured and are no longer in use (disposal) and will be recycled unless they are refurbished /reconditioned (repaired, upgraded) and used again or redistributed to other users.

We say a device or component is reusable if it has or may have use value for someone:

  • If the use value of the device is high enough, it means that there is somewhere a potential user for that device as it is, and only a basic refurbishing processes is required, such as erasing data or restoring the operating system (this is represented as citizen reuse loop in next figure).
  • If the use value is too low, its use value can be increased through several types of actions of refurbishment: repairing, replacing demaged components and updating/ugrade (this is represented as professional reuse loop in next figure).

The reuse process ends when after a few years the device or component reaches disposal state, which means its use value then, or through potential improvements, does not allow its reuse again. The cycle reach recycling to recover (reuse) raw materials and manufacture new components.

What is the Circular Economy of Electronics?

We define the Circular Economy of electronics reuse as the result of performing all viable reuse processes until the use value of devices does not allow further reuse, and that at the end of any reused device is recycled.

Therefore, there are two principles that are key to achieving Circular Economy of electronics:

  1. Traceability: we should ensure that after multiple cycles of reuse devices end up being recycled
  2. Premature recycling: we should ensure at the time of recycling devices have low use value, so there is no premature recycling.

If we apply these two principles, traceability to ensure recycling and, auditing use value to avoid premature recycling, society will preserve created computational value, thus making more efficient use of our resources (minerals, labor, pollution capacity, etc.).

What is an Electronic Reuse Platform?

A platform brings automation, traceability and auditability in all the steps in the life time of devices with the aim of efficiently implementing the circular economy in electronics.

The entities federated to ereuse.org create circuits or reuse platforms. There are two levels of platform: the first level only includes reuse centers; at this level each actor has its own platform, looks for its equipment supply funds and establishes its collaboration agreements between the other entities. In the second level (collaborative), one (or more than one) entity participates with the purpose of zero residue or the reduction of the digital divide. It is an entity that does not carry out the tasks of a reuse centre, but rather of cohesion or umbrella, thus creating a network.

Collaborative platform establishes an agreement to manage, share and maintain the circularity of digital devices. The mission of a platform is to promote cooperation between entities in the reuse sector and the responsible, collaborative and circular use of digital devices. The platform promotes cooperation between digital device suppliers, circular economy entities that do the refurbishment and distribution, and receivers, who receive them for reuse. Platforms are usually made at the local level and actors seek collaboration rather than competition.

  1. suppliers, such as City Councils provision reusable products to a platform through distributors. Supplier defines restrictions over products that the entire platform must preserve. Ex: devices should only be used by non-profit entities, retailed at a fixed maximum price, etc…,
  2. distributors, have the objective of achieving zero waste or reduce the digital divide, distribute suppliers products to reuse centers and retailers most committed to the ereuse.org circular electronics license.
  3. reuse centers, increase the device use value through upgrade and repair processes and offer second-hand warranty. In some platforms, the device quota for refurbishers is in function of their refurbishment performance, so those who repair and upgrade rather than recycle receive more quota,
  4. retailers market platform devices and perform traceability during use phase until product reach collectors. In some platforms, the device quota for retailers are in function of their traceability performance, in other words, the retailer that percentually track more devices receives more devices,
  5. users, are citizens that prefer second hand devices for environmental reasons, citizens in risk of exclusion, organizations such as schools or social enterprises,
  6. collectors, collect and maps device value and derive products to refurbishers if reuse is possible or to recyclers if isn’t,
  7. recyclers, locate and attempt raw material recovery if possible.

What is the impact of a reuse platform?

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.