Circular Electronics Landscape Assessment

A comprehensive report intended to stimulate dialogue and inform strategic circular interventions among electronics producers and their extended networks.

Metabolic completed a landscape assessment report for the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), compiling insights from research, stakeholder surveys, and interviews. This report outlines an industry-wide vision to shift towards a circular and ethical supply chain for electronics, where incentives are aligned to ensure products and materials circulate at their highest value for as long as possible, and responsible environmental, social, and health and safety practices are assured. We identified barriers and opportunities for convening stakeholders across the electronics value chain, galvanizing the collaboration and innovation required to achieve this bold vision.

  • Client: The Responsible Business Alliance (RBA)
  • Date: March 2021
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Challenge

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world

Global demand for electrical and electronic equipment has increased sharply, with consumption growing by 2.5 million metric tons annually. This has led to extraordinary volumes of electronic waste (e-waste): in 2019, according to the Global E-waste Monitor, an estimated 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was generated globally, of which only 17.4 percent was collected for recycling. As electronics producers face increasing pressure to manage e-waste responsibly, and competition for critical raw material inputs increases, a circular economy for electronics becomes imperative. Building a socially equitable and environmentally responsible circular electronics system will require collaboration, tools, technologies, and methods for data standardization across the entire electronics value chain.

Challenge
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Approach

Assessing the barriers and opportunities for a circular electronics system

Metabolic engaged stakeholders across each stage of the circular electronics supply chain through a comprehensive survey and in-depth interviews. The report outlines system hotspots, barriers, opportunities, and interventions for the electronics industry to achieve a circular electronics future through three key topic areas:

  • Data standardization between stakeholders: Data is used to track materials through the recycling process, identify the recycled content of components, assess whether materials are sourced from ethical production sites, and ensure that vendors continue to meet environmental and social compliance standards.
  • Supply Chain Design: Ensuring that recycled materials can meet quality standards and production demand is crucial and requires systemic collaboration between producers and recyclers.
  • Greater Assurance: Companies will only engage circular supply chains that have clear and reliable assurance to environmental, health and safety (EHS) practices. RBA members ensure their products are manufactured in responsible ways, and the same level of attention must be included in a circular supply chain.
Approach
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Outcomes

Cross-industry collaboration is critical to achieve a circular electronics future

In a truly circular electronics system, all recyclers are seen as the upstream suppliers of materials for manufacturers. This report envisions a circular and ethical supply chain for electronics, where incentives are aligned across the value chain to ensure products and materials circulate at their highest value for as long as possible, and responsible environmental, social, and health and safety practices are assured. The RBA will use the output of this report to bring together stakeholders across the electronics value chain, galvanizing the collaboration and innovation required to achieve this vision for a circular electronics system.

Outcomes
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