We generate 53 million metric tonnes of e-waste each year. The World Economic Forum's Circular Electronics in China project is working to change that
When you upgrade to a new smartphone, can you be confident the technical components of the old phone are recycled? Since 2017 the World Economic Forum has worked with partners to launch and deliver a multistakeholder project, Circular Electronics in China. The project was formed as a collaboration platform between industry, government and academia to reach the Chinese government’s ambitious circular economy targets of recycling 50% of e-waste by 2025 and including 20% of recycled content in new products. In the past year, partners have undertaken research on mobile phones, data centre servers, and the remanufacturing of medical imaging equipment.
Workshops and seminars with technical teams at 13 companies in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Jiangmen have engaged manufacturers on how to increase the use of recycled materials in product design. Other sessions educated public health administrations and medical institutions on the renovation and remanufacturing of medical equipment.
The working groups’ research, including on the administrative difficulty of moving materials out of special economic zones for recycling, subsequently led to a change in policy, as part of the Chinese government’s drive to build a more circular economy.
For medical equipment and for data centres, for instance, there is strong commitment among stakeholders to take the work forward, including setting up a remanufacturing hub in Hainan province to extend the life of medical equipment.
In just a few short years, more than 30 Chinese and international companies have been connected with the project and are disseminating the findings of the research through training, education, and support, ensuring the project’s ambitious e-waste targets are achieved.