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Fostering Circular Behaviours in the Electronics Sector and Beyond

Looking for effective ways to enable circular behaviour change in the electronics, plastics and textile sectors? Then, the Consumer Insight Action Panel (CIAP) is the right framework. Through a hands-on collaboration process with businesses, start-ups, NGOs, researchers and European policy makers, CIAP aims to mobilise and support frontrunners in enabling circular behaviours. To do that, CIAP will connect circular production to consumption, go deeper into understanding the consumer behavioural elements of the circular transition, and unlock the practical applications of behavioural insights to enable more circularity in various sectors.

Each European generates 16.6kg e-waste per year. In general, E-waste reached 50 million tons in 2018 globally, a figure that grows 3-4% every year1. This is partly due to the fact that the lifetime of most electronic products is decreasing and a growing number of appliances are replaced before they reach their average service life of 5 years2. In the meantime, according to Eurostat, it is estimated that less than 40% of electronic waste is recycled in the EU, while over one third of European consumers have never repaired an electronic product 3. These are some of the challenges faced in the electronics sector in Europe, not to mention the critical resource, carbon and water footprints that result from this.

How can we improve the take-back schemes to motivate consumers to return obsolete electronics, such as smartphones, to the right collection points? What are the effective ways to enable consumers to choose more durable products? Can behaviour change play a role in engaging consumers to exercise their right to repair?

EU policies and decision-makers have long recognised the importance of understanding and integrating consumer knowledge and behavioural insights into the circular economy transition. The new EU Circular Economy Action Plan is more than ever focused on “empowering  consumers  and  providing  them  with  cost-saving  opportunities”, a  key  building  block  of the transition towards a circular economy in Europe. Among several important goals, the Action Plan aims at “improving the collection and treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment including by exploring options for an EU-wide take back scheme to return or sell back old mobile phones, tablets and chargers”, which will certainly entail having a better understanding of the barriers faced by consumers in playing their part.

Despite the growing importance of consumer engagement and behavioural insights for the circular economy transition, there is little research and action on how to effectively enable more circular behaviours. Similarly, the need to understand and address the actual consumer behavioural barriers to engage is still largely overlooked within circular strategies. To address this gap, the CSCP, Sitra and the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) have launched in 2019 the Consumer Insight Action Panel, in partnership with the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform.

The goal of the Consumer Insight Action Panel is to translate consumer needs and behavioural knowledge into impact-oriented and consumer-relevant policy recommendations, business innovations and civil society actions towards the circular economy. In other words, the main objective is to enable change towards the circular behaviours that really matter!

CIAP’s work has been organised in three clubs: electronics, plastics and textiles. Each club consists of a group of high-level stakeholders dedicated to exchanging knowledge, benchmark existing solutions, prototype and test innovations, and lead the sector when it comes to fostering circular behaviours. The stakeholders includes business, start-ups, NGOs, researchers and European policy makers. You can find more details about the clubs here.

The Electronics Club focuses on exploring ways to engage consumers more effectively in the transition towards more circularity and test behaviourally-informed approaches in retail stores, neighbourhoods and households. Moreover, the Electronic Clubs aims at fostering circular electronic goals such as boosting take-back schemes, enabling the fulfilment of the right to repair, and supporting product maintenance. Finally, the club is also keen on understanding how solutions to support circular behaviours might have social impacts and how to account for them.

Are you interested in driving behavioural knowledge and supporting behavioural change towards the circular economy transition in Europe? Would you like to be involved in prototyping and testing interventions towards circular behaviours in electronics, plastics or textiles sector?

Then, reach out to Mariana Nicolau.

Image Robin Worrall on Unsplash

1 ITU, 2017
2 Prakash et al., 2016
3 DG JUST, 2018