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ETC/WMGE Report on Electronics and Obsolescence in a Circular Economy is Published

The stock of electrical and electronic equipment has increased to the extent that the number of internet-related electronics produced annually exceeds the number of humans on earth (WEF, 2019). Such rapid increase of the amount of electronics is indicative of growing demand, but also of shorter lifetimes and increasing obsolescence of such products. The European Topic Centre’s on Waste and Materials in a Green Economy (ETC/WMGE) report “Electronics and Obsolescence in a Circular Economy“ offers a state-of-the art analysis as well as examines potential circular business models and policy measures for increasing lifetimes of electronics.

The report shows that, in practice, electronic products have an average lifetime that is at least 2.3 years shorter than the manufacturer’s claim (designed lifetime) or the consumer’s expectation (desired lifetime). Through four different case studies – smartphones, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and televisions – it is shown how increasing the product lifetime is essential for reducing environmental impacts of electronics. In support of that, the report examines potential circular business models and policy measures that lead to longer lifetimes of electronic products.

The ETC report “Electronics and Obsolescence in a Circular Economy“ provides the analytical underpinning for a respective briefing of the European Environment Agency (EEA). It is published in the memory of Sunny-Yang Deng, co-author of the report and late CSCP project manager, whose expertise in obsolescence has greatly contributed to it.

The report is available for download at the CSCP’s library.

For further information, please contact Nora Brüggemann.