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ECO Benefits

Granting electronic devices a second lifecycle by reusing them may prevent waste, preserve the value added and minimise the use of resource consumption.

The production of notebooks, tablets and smartphones necessitates the input of numerous finite natural resources like precious metals (gold, silver…), platin-group metals (PGM) and rare earth elements (REE) (neodymium, dysprosium…). PGM or heavy and light rare earth elements, for example, are part of a group of 20 elements classified as critical by the EU [1]. Moreover today’s recycling techniques are, for the most part, not able to recover these scarce elements from waste devices during treatment. In contrast to bulk metals’ (iron, copper…) recycling rates, which are pretty high, REE’s and semiconductor’s recycling rates range from zero to ten percent [2]. This means, that today most rare elements are lost during the recycling process. Extending the life span of devices and delaying the point, at which they become waste, may facilitate the recovery of rare elements by future recycling techniques. Furthermore extended lifespans may reduce the number of newly manufactured devices. A reduction of the number of devices newly manufactured may lead to a reduction of the use of (scarce) resources. A reduction of the use of resources may, in turn, reduce negative environmental impacts associated with the mining of primary raw materials, such as the use of harmful chemicals. A reduction of energy consumed due to the manufacturing of new devices may be possible as well. Ciroth et. al. [3] analysed the environmental impacts that occur due to the production phase, use phase and disposal phase of notebooks. They found that more than 80% of the negative impacts on the eco system as well as human health occur due to the production phase. The RUN project aims to help reduce negative environmental impacts caused by the production of new devices, by reducing the need for initial manufacturing. 

The ecological benefits of the RUN business model will be analysed and documented during the project.

Literature

[1] European Commission (2014) Report on Critical Raw Materials for the EU: Report of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on defining critical materials – May 2014 (Review) ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/raw-materials/files/docs/crm-report-on-critical-raw-materials_en.pdf

[2] Graedel, T.E., et al.: Recycling Rates of Metals – A Status Report. United Nations Environment Programme, 2011
www.unep.org/resourcepanel/Portals/24102/PDFs/Metals_Recycling_Rates_110412-1.pdf

[3] Ciroth et. al. 2011, Interacting with the ILCD data network from a LCA software - the example of openLCA, Vortrag, LCM 2011 Berlin, 28. - 31. August 2011. 

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