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A guide to the circular economy of digital devices

This guide is divided into 13 modules, and illustrated through case studies. It describes the concepts, processes and some of the major challenges to circularity, summarises the key challenges and opportunities, including for policy advocacy.

A guide to the circular economy of digital devices

What is the evolution of our digitally connected world? Let’s hope the future does not follow the...

Module 1: The environmental impact of a digital device

In 10 years’ time, digital devices will account for nearly a quarter of global emissions, with th...

Module 2: Meeting the needs of the future

A digital device can have positive or negative economic, social and environmental impacts at each...

Module 3: Defining the circular economy of digital devices

We can define the circular economy of digital devices as extending the useful life of digital dev...

Case study - eReuse: Building reuse circuits for social inclusion

Written by Leandro Navarro, Technical University of Catalonia (UPC) and Pangea Project /...

Module 4: How producing digital devices impacts on natural resources and on people

In order to find and maintain “a safe and just space for people and planet”,1 we need to maximise...

Case study - The fate of women artisanal miners in Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By Patience Luyeye The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) produces 60% of the world’s cobalt and...

Case study - “We are struggling to survive”: Resistance against mining in Acacoyagua, Chiapas

“We are not moving from here until the machines are gone. We are not afraid; we have the courage ...

Case study - The microfactory model: SMaRT innovation for urban waste mining

Written by Syed Kazi, Digital Empowerment Foundation Project / Programme Centre for...

Module 5: The need for transparency in the design of digital devices

We have the power to demand more information about the digital devices offered on the market. Buy...

Case study - Fairphone: Building a mobile phone that is socially and environmentally responsible, and lasts longer

Written by Leandro Navarro, Pangea Project / Programme Fairphone Region / ...

Module 6: The need for workers’ rights in assembly and manufacturing

We need to demand respect for workers’ rights and compliance with minimal workplace and environme...

Case study - Electronics Watch: Utilising public procurement power to make the largest settlement of migrant worker recruitment fees possible

Written by Peter Pawlicki, Electronics Watch Project / Programme Electronics Watch ...

Module 7: Sustainable public procurement

The buying power of public institutions gives them great economic leverage to influence manufactu...

Module 8: Extending the useful life of a device

If we consider that devices are valuable for their computing resources, then we should focus on t...

Module 9: The value and cost of e-waste

The piles of digital scrap we see in landfills are a symptom of unsustainable decisions made by m...

Case study - Computer Aid’s Solar Learning Lab: Sustainable, scalable and adaptable to local needs

Written by Alejandro Espinosa, Computer Aid Project / Programme Solar Learning Lab ...

Case study - Planta de Gestión de Residuos Informáticos: The long and challenging road in setting up an e-waste recycling plant in Argentina

Written by Florencia Roveri, Nodo TAU Project / Programme Planta de Gestión de Resi...

Case study - Karo Sambhav (Make It Possible): Working with manufacturers to create an e-waste ecosystem in India

Written by Syed Kazi, Digital Empowerment Foundation Project / Programme Karo Samb...

Case study - Benelux Afro Center: Innovative relay stations involving young people in the proper recycling of e-waste in the DRC

Written by Patience Luyeye Project / Programme Benelux Afro Center Region ...

Case study - GSM Repairers Association: Building capacity and creating opportunities for mobile repairers in Nigeria

Written by Y. Z. Ya'u, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) Project...

Case study - Computadores para Educar: Ensuring circularity through managing e-waste properly in a computers-for-schools initiative

Written by Julián Casasbuenas, Colnodo Project/Programme Computadores para Educar ...

Module 10: An introduction to environmental rights as an advocacy framework

Environmental rights are “people-centric” in that they are related to the health and well-being o...

Module 11: Challenges and ways forward for policy action – awareness, mining, design, manufacturing and procurement

Formal and informal mining are in desperate need of regulation, while the design and manufacturin...

Module 12: Challenges and ways forward for policy action – use, reuse and e-waste

Government policies are necessary to ensure that digital devices are used for as long as possible...

Case study - Transitioning to the circular economy in the South Asia region: A phased policy approach for Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan

By Syed Sultan Kazi and Tarun Pratap, Digital Empowerment Foundation  Introduction The South As...

Acknowledgements

This guide to the circular economy of digital devices was developed by a working group of the Ass...