Circular Electronics

We use more and more electronics, from computers to mobile phones, kitchen appliances and lighting. This requires a growing amount of scarce materials. After being used, most electronics end up on a mountain of waste. Emissions and toxic substances affect the environment and human health. Raw materials are running out. With circular electronics raw materials for electronics are not discarded, but remain in use.  

Circular electronics

Scientists from Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam are working with companies on circular electronics, amongst others in the NWO program Circular Circuits, which focuses on applications in telecommunications, consumer electronics, lighting and power electronics. Participants are looking for solutions for life extension, reuse, repair, and recycling. They are investigating how technological design, new business models and advanced recycling technologies contribute to this.  

Making products last longer  

In 2019, we threw away 53.6 million tons of electronic waste worldwide: 8 pyramids from Giza. There are several ways to keep these products in circulation for much  longer: by extending the life of products, reusing, or repairing products ('reuse').  

New technology, smart design and use of materials  

Many electronic products are designed in such a way that they are difficult to repair or reuse, for example because components are glued on and can no longer be separated. New European legislation is comping up, consumers are getting a ‘right to repair. ’ But how can design make a product easier to repair or reuse?  

Read more about ‘ repair ’ as one of the circular strategies 

Recycling more and better

In the waste phase, electronic products often pass through the shredder. The different materials, such as glass types or plastics, must be recognized in order to be separated. That is not easy. Pattern recognition and artificial intelligence offer great solutions.