Brought to you by Marianne Magnus Melgar from CSCP
Over the long period of the industrial age, economic growth has been largely dependent on the extraction and processing of raw materials. Is it even possible for countries to combine or even boost their economic growth in line with the sustainable use of resources? “Yes,” says the European Commission (EC), which has set a milestone in global policy to combat climate change with its Circular Economy Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal.
The CE-RISE project is a showcase for how European objectives and policies can be implemented in practice and how targeted collaboration among stakeholders from different sectors, such as industry partners, research institutions, universities, producer responsibility associations, software solution providers, etc., who want to be part of an economically and environmentally sustainable future, can look like.
What is the European Green Deal and the EU Circular Economy Action Plan?
In a broad sense, the European Green Deal is the European Commission’s ambitious aim of making the European Union (EU) the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050. It strives for an equitable, zero-emission, and digitalised Europe where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. The European Green Deal was communicated in 2019 and is Europe’s sustainable growth strategy to transform the EU into a fairer and more prosperous society and covers a wide range of different sectors, including climate, energy, environment, transport, agriculture and the industry to be targeted.
Not surprisingly, the transition towards a circular economy is a key element within the Green Deal to achieve its objectives. Therefore, the new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) was developed and adopted in March 2020 to accelerate the transformational change required by the European Green Deal, while building on circular economy actions implemented since 2015. The CEAP’s actions cover initiatives along the entire product life cycle, including the design of products, the promotion of circular economy processes, strengthening sustainable consumption, reducing waste and ensuring a well-functioning EU internal market for high quality secondary raw materials. By doing so, both consumers and public buyers will be empowered to participate in this transition that will benefit people, regions and cities.
One of the key product value chains within the CEAP is electronics and ICT (Information and Communications Technology), as electrical and electronic equipment remains one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU (annual growth rates of 2%) and it is estimated that less than 40% of electronic waste is recycled in the EU. Within the CEAP and as part of the Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI), the proposal for a new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) was published in March 2022, building on the current Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC so far only covering energy-related products. Under the new ESPR, appliances are now to be designed not only for energy efficiency, but also durability, reparability, upgradability, maintenance, reuse and recycling. Furthermore, to achieve the goals of the SPI, the EC is requesting the introduction of Digital Product Passports (DPP), which are to be based on norms and standards. The DPP is intended to provide a response to the necessary sustainable and digital transformation of the economy and society, allowing information to be shared across the entire value chain of products and track materials and other supply chain information such as a product’s sustainability.
How CE-RISE supports the Green Deal?
Recent challenges, such as the Covid-19 crisis or Russia’s war on Ukraine, have exposed the fragility of our globalised world, especially with respect to our fragile global supply chains and energy dependency. In light of the lessons learned, the EC has decided to minimise the loss of Secondary Raw Materials (SRMs) and optimise their reuse within value chains, highlighting the role of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) in the technological transition towards green and sustainable technologies. Furthermore, to address these challenges, the European Commission is preparing the general requirements for the establishment of the DPP.
The CE-RISE project, with its focus on ICT and electronics, is the perfect enabler for the EU’s sustainability goals, as the potential for circularity in this sector is very high. One of the key objectives of CE-RISE is to provide solutions for the tracking and tracing of CRMs and their retention in an EU circular economy so as to become less dependent on other countries and avoid raw material waste.
A unique consortium from 11 EU countries is working together to develop and implement the Circular Economy Resource Information System (CE-RISE) to share detailed data on electronic products that identify optimal solutions for the effective reuse, recovery, and recycling of materials. With the support of our industry partners, CE-RISE will also develop DPPs for the various case studies for ICT products, printers, photovoltaic (PV) panels, batteries and heating systems integrating information such as the product environmental footprint and socio-economic and environmental impacts of RE processes into the information system.
Transparency along the supply chain is key, and with the support of our partner Circularise, which offers blockchain-based technology, end-to-end supply chain traceability solutions will facilitate the tracking of materials. CE-RISE will develop a system that gives stakeholders a better understanding of the environmental impact of electronic products and guidance on how to preserve important raw materials by reusing, repairing and recycling these products. Equity and digitalisation will be promoted by providing access to all kind of stakeholders, including consumers and policymakers, through an “open to all” information platform (open access software application). Refurbishers, repair shops, or remanufacturers will be able to access information about the products stored in the DPP like spare part lists or recommendations for the proper separation and collection of products, thus increasing the number of products and materials recirculating in the market.