Green IO
#20 E-waste: friend or foe in a circular economy with Jacqueline Mukarukundo and Vanessa Forti
June 6, 2023
What about the 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste generated worldwide ? Is it time for a global commitment to tackle the alarming 82% of e-waste that remains unrecycled? And how can we, as responsible individuals and global citizens, take action to address this critical issue? That’s what we discussed in this episode on e-waste ! Join Gaël Duez to meet : Jacqueline Mukarukundo, co-founder of Wastezon in Rwanda and Vanessa Forti, Associate Programme Officer at UNITAR. ➡️ Jacqueline and Vanessa shared their insights on the complexities of e-waste and the steps needed for a more sustainable future. ✅ Don't miss this episode if you want to explore e-waste and gain valuable insights on creating a more sustainable future. ❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!
What about the 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste generated worldwide ? 

How can we, as responsible individuals and global citizens, take action to address this critical issue?

That’s what we discussed in this episode on e-waste !

Join Gaël Duez to meet : Jacqueline Mukarukundo, co-founder of Wastezon in Rwanda and Vanessa Forti, Associate Programme Officer at UNITAR.

➡️ Jacqueline and Vanessa shared their insights on the complexities of e-waste and the steps needed for a more sustainable future. 

✅ Don't miss this episode if you want to explore e-waste and gain valuable insights on creating a more sustainable future.

❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!

Learn more about our guests and connect

Jacqueline Mukarukundo is a passionate advocate for the environment, co-founder of Wastezon, a Rwandan clean tech startup driving a waste-free world. Her zeal in Marketing led Wastezon to emerge as the best E-waste Solution Provider-East Africa in 2019 Build Magazine’s Recycling and Waste Management Awards.

Vanessa Forti is an Environmental Engineer with an innate passion for the environment and sustainability. At the United Nations, she has been actively involved in promoting and monitoring sustainable development, while ensuring the environmentally-sound management of natural resources and waste. Vanessa is dedicated to encouraging global sustainable development.

📧 You can also send us an email at to share your feedback and suggest future guests or topics.   

Jacqueline and Vanessa’s sources and other references mentioned in this episode


Gael: Hello everyone. Welcome to Green IO, the podcast for doers making our digital word greener, one byte at a time. I'm your host, Gael Duez and I invite you to meet a wide range of guests working in the tech industry, to help you better understand and make sense of its sustainability issues and find inspiration to positively impact the digital world.

If you like the podcast, please rate it on Apple, Spotify or your favorite platform to spread the word to more responsible technologists like you. And now enjoy the show. 

In this episode, we go to Germany to meet Vanessa Forti and to Runda to meet Jacqueline Mukarukundo to talk about electronic waste or e-waste. You know, once someone tries to run a proper lifecycle assessment of a digital service or an IT equipment, E-waste is often narrowed down to "yeah, we know it's bad, but we don't have any data to quantify it".

Well, there is actually a big source of information, at least on the quantitative side, which is a global e-waste monitor published by both the United Nations University (UNU) and United Nation Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and Vanessa the associate program officer at UNITAR, is the lead author of the 2020 edition.

She's also a true European globetrotter, an Italian who graduated as an environmental engineer in Italy, did research works in Norway and in the Netherland on circular economics metrics, especially on metals. In a nutshell, could we dream of a better expert to be with us? Well, we could dream of having someone bringing also experience on the e-waste circular economy, having her hands full of its potential as well as challenges.

 This is why I'm delighted to have Jacqueline to bring a unique perspective on e-waste. Jacqueline is a Kigalian entrepreneur who co-founded Wastezon almost four years ago. Her work has earned her many awards and a wide recognition as an inspiring African woman leader. Currently, she's also working on the Africa Smart Cities Investment Summit, which will be held in Kigali from the 6th to 8th of September this year.

To be honest, she's also the kind of person whose entrepreneurship helps me remember that many of us in the so-called global north take things for granted and complain about issues that will build joke elsewhere : not having received or delivery in 24 hour, finding how to recruit talents. Well, when I first discussed with Jacqueline about the best time to record our session, she told me that morning is better because there is less power outage in Kigali at that time.

Hence, a better internet connection and still her company is thriving, food for thought. Welcome, Jacqueline and Vanessa. Thanks a lot for joining Green IO today. 

Vanessa: Thank you. Thank you for the invitation.

Jacqueline: Thank you for having me.

Gael: My pleasure. I'd like to start with the usual question I asked to my guest, which is how did you become interested in sustainability? E-waste in specific, but sustainability in general. Jacqueline, did you experience some kind of like "bubble moment", for instance?

Jacqueline: Wow, that's a very good question. So I remember very well that I became interested in sustainability when I realized the harmful impact of electronic waste on environment and people's health. This was actually in 2018 when, back then, basically I was after high school and starting university and I started to realize these specific issues of how we deal with electronic devices we have in our house, specifically in my country, but also in developing countries like Africa.

So this literally worked me out to start to think about how I can bring up solution to the table and specifically green technology industry cause that's one of the things which I'm missing in African countries. So I saw an opportunity to create sustainable solution to this problem. Also I wanted to focus on reducing and creating environmental impact of electronic waste.

In that moment, while I can also create economic opportunity for communities, basically creating a win-win solution to both those who have electronic waste, but those one who correct it, which are electronic recycling industries. So, I never really experienced a light bomb moment, but rather a gradual awareness of the importance of sustainability in our business practices, but also it's a positive impact on society and the planet.

So I would say that this awareness has really fueled, kind of feeded me, my passion for creating innovative solutions, but also sustainable activities to the environmental challenge. So at the moment, I feel like I'm very inspired to continue to create positive impact that can work and have a larger impact to the whole world.

Gael: Yeah, that's interesting because it's really about focusing on the impact and not focusing too much on the problem, which is obviously something that we will discuss about the e-waste. And what about you, Vanessa? How did you become the environmental engineer that you are today and working so much on the e-waste area I would say?

Vanessa: Thank you Gael for the question and this enables me to look back when I was a child. I remember that at elementary school, I had a teacher that was teaching us how to fold plastic shopping bags in a proper way so that you can store it in your drawer and reuse it when you need it instead of throwing them away.

 I remember that lesson, in a very clear way. That was very inspiring for me when I was a child. Since then I started indeed folding shopping bags and keeping them just for reusing instead of buying or getting new ones.

So I would say that is a light bubble moment I had in my life. And since then I've always been sensitive to environmental issues. Also my parents remember I was getting mad at people when, in the 90s when I saw them throwing things on the street and back then it was pretty common. So I guess since then I really hated the waste problem.

 I wanted to do something to improve also the sustainability in general. At least I tried to do simple actions so that I could improve at least a little bit from my side. The little world I was living in. Since then, I always had that interest and I continued my path by studying environmental engineering.

Then the driver was ready to try to find solutions indeed, to the problems. I've also been very much interested in developing solutions because we know there's many problems out there. We need to find solutions to leave a better world for the future generations as well.

Gael: Excellent. So, Vanessa, I read, not entirely, but a good chunk of the global e-waste monitor because I wanted to get some sense of proportion. So in the global e-Waste Monitor 2020, it is assessed that 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was generated worldwide. And I was curious to see how I could compare.

So I calculated the weight of an Olympic swimming pool, and I got that actually this amount is 21,440 Olympic swimming pools. And you know what? I couldn't yet truly picture what 21,440 Olympic swimming pool meant, so I converted them in square kilometer, which is 26.8 square kilometers, and it is roughly a quarter of the area of Paris, okay. Not exactly but roughly.

So if we want to store all the West generated in the last four years worldwide, we will need to erase Paris and replace it by swimming pools in four years. So providing that the density of electronic equipment is closed to the density of water, which is not the case. So we might save some presence luckiest.

This data. Well, they, they were just super impressive and I wanted to ask you, where do they come from and how are they crunched? How do you build such a database?

Vanessa: Thanks for the question and thanks for making the comparisons. Indeed it's a lot of data and we do actually compile worldwide data on, well, we start from analyzing production and trade statistics at worldwide level. We do this exercise for all countries in the world that are UN member states.

So basically we analyze the sales of electric and electronic products every year. Then we also analyzed and imports/exports and the domestic production. And these are data that are available to the open public as well because they're published in the UN Comtrade database.

So what we did is to really have a list of all products that are, that can be classified as electric and electronic product and we compile all this information at global level. We make a simple calculation that it seems simple, but then when you run this model for all countries in the world, sorry, then this will of course increase the complexity.

But the simple calculation that we do is imports minus exports, plus domestic production. So basically we account for whatever is sold in the country as such so whatever comes in, minus whatever goes out, plus whatever is produced domestically in terms of electric and electronic products. So that's the simple idea let's say, and then we link it to the lifetime of the products. 

So we made over the years assessments on by linking this average lifetimes to the sells, we would know when this product will become waste. So at the very end, we have a database that goes from 1980 up to the current year. Then we are able to make estimates also over time and we have made estimates up to 2050. 

So that's a bit how we come to those data and hopefully this provides a bit more insights also.

Gael: Oh, he does definitely. And how accurate should we think about there's 53.6 million. Is it like plus or minus 5% or plus or minus 50%?

Vanessa: Well, that's a good question actually. We have tried to assess this over the years, and all in all, we can say that we feel confident with the data that we provide and that we calculate because they're based on real data that are actually reported by countries. So the production and trade statistics are official data from countries.

Of course there is a certain level of uncertainty when it comes also to domestic production because domestic production, it's an indicator that is not easily or readily available at international level, and many countries may not disclose that information or may not be available. So in that sense, indeed there is a certain level of uncertainty. However, the model compensates for potential lack of information at domestic production level, let's say.

So we run many statistical corrections when we are on the model to make sure to really limit the level of uncertainty at the very end, we guess and estimated the level of uncertainties indeed around 5 to maximum 10%. But it would not be more than that in my view.

Gael: Plus or minus 5%. So that, that gives a good idea of what kind of number we should share with the general public and you mentioned trends. Geographically speaking, but also maybe by time of equipments., What are the trends that you've noticed recently?

Vanessa: When we look at the categories of e-waste the trends that we have observed is that of course temperature exchange equipment are growing at high speed. So there has been an increase of 7% compared to 2014, for example, and that's the highest grow rate among the 6 European categories. There is a very big growth on consumption on air conditioners, for example, in the global south that we have noticed in the past years and therefore this is definitely impacting the future e-waste generation for sure. 

When it comes to screens and monitors, for example, the consumption in terms of number of units is increasing and has increased a lot during Covid as well, especially because of the, we guess it's because of the increase usage of those appliances at home from smart work. Therefore we have seen an increase in that sense. However, at the same time, those screens and monitors are becoming lighter and lighter over the years. If we imagine that we transition from the old CRTs to the new technologies and screens that are now very flat and very light, they became much lighter.

So in terms of weight, the screens and monitors is the category that is decreasing over time. But of course they're increasing in terms of number of units. Just to answer your question on the regional aspect and regional differences, we notice a rapid increase in new waste generation in the global south.

Especially Africa has been contributing to the E-waste mountain with a lower speed compared to higher income countries. But African countries are now also showing a very rapid increase in the past years. So that's a trend that maybe makes sense to highlight as well as the Asian situation that of course, being Asia continent that is very populous with many billion people, of course, is the continent that is contributing the most to the global e-waste generation.

Gael: And there is one figure actually that struck me, that we've got this big increase in e-waste, sometimes in weight, sometime in quantities and sometime in both. If I understood you well, especially regarding IT equipment, and then there is this recycling issue. I remember this number that less than 18% of a global e-waste is recycled.

Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Vanessa: Thanks. I think very relevant point to highlight. So the trend that I would like to highlight is that, we have noticed, the global e-waste recycled is growing at lesser of a speed compared to the increase of the speed at which the global waste generation is instead growing. 

The global waste generation is growing a much higher speed compared to the e-waste recycling figure, and that is for several reasons. 

The first and very important one is that, while the global waste generation is modeled, it's our data that are modeled with the model I just explained. The e-waste formally recycled is actually coming from data that we collect and gather directly from countries.

So these are data that are reported by governments around the the world. So the figure reflects what is currently available at national governments. It is also true that many governments, especially in the global south, don't have this figure so don't gather the figure and therefore we do not receive information on the amount of e-waste formally collected.

The reason could be many. The main one is that if there is no legislation in place, there is no formal obligation for governments to report on the e-waste formally collected. There is definitely also not a system in place to monitor the recycling facilities or to survey the recycling facilities.

The second reason is also that, of course, the countries that don't have a legislation would hardly have a well-working e-waste management system because not having any obligation no business is willing to establish in a country. So it's a sort of a loop with no legislations, it is easier or let's say it is more difficult for the US recycling to establish.

 Other way around if no US recycling is happening, it's harder for the governments to regulate the subject for countries with the legislation instead. The recycling rates are still low nevertheless so if we look at Europe as well, where there is a redirective for many years and the e-waste recycling is very well regulated.

But still most of the countries are far from reaching the collection targets.

Gael: And taking a concrete example, Jacqueline, could you t ell us a bit more on the situation in Rwanda when it comes to legal requirements, recycling rate, etc. Is it something that you can talk about?

Jacqueline: Yeah, so responding to that I would say that I don't have like accurate data to support it, but according to the observations and the experience I had, one of the main areas of similarity challenge developing countries are facing it's correction, as Vanessa said : The correction process and the capacity of recycling the issue of investment, but also automation about awareness, the effect of electronic waste.

We may think that normal people or public doesn't have enough awareness of electronic voice, but one thing which was being able to visualize is that : you find that majority of people have electronic devices in their house where they have this specific particular small room in the corner of the house where they drop out, maybe tv, which no longer work, maybe dvd, maybe phones, or like this particular mouse or this model, electronic devices, which are no longer being used.

They keep it in their houses for what? So first of all, they believe that these electronic devices has a value into it. So they're expecting at least to get a low cost amount of money, let's say maybe five US dollars according to the value of it, maybe 10 US dollars, particularly depending to how this holder of electronic devices feel like his electronic devices still has a value.

But one thing which happened back and forth between all the stakeholders involved in electronic waste management industry here in developing country is that you find that some of recycling industries are not willing to compensate the cost value this electronic deficit may still have. 

Also those one who still have it in their houses, they refuse to give it back. And where to some point they feel like "okay, instead of giving to back, I will just send it to the landfill". So by sending to the landfill or at the downside that this increase the impact, the cremate and environment. So there is back and forth change and understanding the law each individual stakeholder must bring on the table. 

 That's why we find so many electronic devices on the dump sites, on landfill everywhere. You find recycling actors saying that they're not capable of finding enough tons of electronics they may probably need, for recycling just because there is misunderstanding the value law this electronic waste has.

 This bring us so much understanding why the cycling blade is still very low in developing countries. Every, if I could remember, probably still below to 20%. So basically that's the situation, how the situation is, and I would support what Vanessa was saying. This is a very huge challenge mainly when it comes to developing countries, even though currently is cross boundaries prohibition for electronic secondhand electronic devices.

But still, it happened illegally on the block market. I think it's a bit chaos, but I say regulatory black market for electronic devices because some countries has already set cross boundaries, prohibition for electronic devices, but still for some reason it tend to be happen in one way or the other.

So that's also increased a huge challenge to how to deal with electronic devices. Yeah.

Gael: I've got a question for both of you, and this is a very basic question. How bad is e-waste? Obviously wasting things is not very good, but why do we focus that much on e-waste? And I've heard a lot of stuff about pollution, blah, blah, blah, et cetera. But I'd like to get your insights for both of you, both experts, regarding e-waste.

Vanessa: E-waste is actually, well bad in my view, when it is not disposed in a proper way. So as Jacqueline also mentioned there are many illegal practices when it comes also to recycling. Many backyard recycling is happening in many countries in the world. And when this happens, without the proper safety standards and procedures it is very likely that the person that is handling the waste gets intoxicated or inhale toxic fumes by burning cables or plastics. The plastics that is usually burned is containing claim retardant substances. Those are the ones that are very toxic for the human being, but also for the environment in general.

From what we have seen, this is a very easy way to get rid of the plastic and get to the available parts. For cables, for example, the plastic casing is incinerated. And then in order to extract the copper this is where e-waste becomes fed and toxic and polluting.

 In the landfills where these illegal practices are happening, we as senior collaborated with WHO in the past monitors and we found out that there is larger impacts that we could not think of before. Even kids are affected or pregnant women are also affected by the toxic substances that are released on the environment by bad waste management practices.

Gael: And Jacqueline, is it something that you've witnessed it or that you can tell us a bit more about this non-proper waste disposal. There is a famous place, which is now closed in Ghana, which is at Agbogbloshie that used to be kind of a nightmare when it comes to a manage waste, electronic waste but, you know, it's just one example. 

I've always wondered if it was something that you could find elsewhere or if it was hopefully for Africa, just a single example of bad waste management.

Jacqueline: So reason why e-waste is a very big issue, we tend to forget the reality of the world we are living. At the moment we are living the world where technology is the future. Everything is being turned into digital transformation is being turned to using ICT tools and all of that.

But we tend to think the lifecycle of these ICT tools we are using in our everyday life, we cannot really forget that we have specific iPhone brands, which are already on market each and every year or every two year. Maybe I would say maybe iPhone 14, iPhone 13. You know, there is always new version of the market and as a human beings and as a customers, we are always ready. We are always ready to consume these electronic devices, new product, new brand at the market. But the reason why we need to emphasize on electronic waste effect and how we can deal with it, it's by this reality of always higher conception rate all over the world of electronic devices and always new technologies which are coming on the table.

That's why we need to stress out a lot on electronic devices until we understand the life cycle system or secure economy of how new conception lead of all the branding new devices and all of that can be able to be treated. That's why manufacturers needs to come in.

I liked Vanessa's research paper, how it was mentioning the lifecycles of electronic devices by mentioning when this could turn out to be e-waste.

So by having all these supportive information and all the stakeholders on board, we can be able to deal with it. I would like really maybe to a repeat mention about the minors we find in electronic waste. Electronic devices have like a gold, silver, copper, and other variable materials into it.

But most of these come from traditional mining, and we all know the effect of traditional mining. So with having urban mining in place, we'll be able to extract this gold and silver, and create recycling process to be reused once again instead of finding them on the dump side or at the landfill. So this is all the involvement of why we need to really deal with electronic devices.


Gael: And that comes at the perfect point in this discussion because what you're saying is actually because of this hyper consumption worldwide, that we've got more and more e-waste and actually e-waste is a good proxy for this hyper consumption of electronic equipments. 

We should pay attention to this indicator and still it has become, and it is become more and more a business to manage with this e-waste, what you call urban mining. I believe this is actually what you've done creating a business around circular economy and the Wastezon entreprise that you've created. So I would love to know a bit more about how you manage. 

Can you basically pitch us what Wastezon does?

Jacqueline: Wastezon is still a startup, I may say. So basically what's Wastezon app, it's like connecting app between consumers or household manufacturers and recyclers who are looking for secondhand electronic devices or electronic waste. Where this app is being able to help with efficient tech empowered traceability services where it's helping them to generate value with value addition benefits to their electronic waste in environmental friendly. Where, as I said earlier, before, it's like a win-win situation where these manufacturers and cyclists need to understand that these people could get a value into their device they still have in their houses. Could be a little one, it's dependent negotiation between two parties who want to exchange these electronic devices. 

 Then I would say that for now we have more than 2000 users who were able to trust us and translate over 400 tons of electronic waste on our platform. This really brought our mind to- and it's sort of- show us that we are actually not even closer to where we are designed to be.

 We always meet, people are saying "oh, I actually have these laptops", "I have phones at home", "I don't have any clue where to send it" but I also, at the end of the day, I know that it still have a value the only issue may be my smartphone have, it's the screen and I know I can repair it, but I don't have time for it.

So for us, we create a chain of value between two parties on Wastezon app to be able to sell between each other. So for the long term vision we have is to create a future of urban mining in electronic waste. Cause we realize that's where we are heading and this is the future and we have to believe it and see how we are heading.

 Talking about urban mining and how it's the long land vision for us is that we have seen how manufacturers are waking up to be part of this journey. I have seen amazing work, Dell and some other, like even Samsung is collecting like batteries. I think has started or it's part of the plan to start next year to start to collect batteries in east african countries, but also in some part of Africa because that is sufficient of our batteries minors to produce new ones. 

So they want to tap in into creating those one they already sent to the market and be able to process it once again. But also in a way of creating sustainability and environmental impact, which is the same thing Dell is doing I think in South America when I was reading the article in South America, in some part of India, I guess.

So this is amazing and shows how manufacturers putting those producer responsibility in their hands. So that's where we want to here to be able to help these manufacturers to trace and know where there is a materials or e-waste where they can trace it and channel it to their recycling site where it's being based.

So that's what we are doing at the moment and we are excited towards the future is holding for us. Yeah.

Gael: So 400 tons is already a very significant achievement, so congratulations. My question would be just to understand, well, the word urban mining, these manufacturers and these recyclers, do they kind of extract the metals by, you know, melting chipboard, et cetera, et cetera? Or do they also manage to extract some spare parts that they will reuse in new equipments on the market?

So is it recycling or is it just extraction of new resources?

Jacqueline: Okay, so explaining what's exactly will be urban mining, how it's work. This kind of the time, which is sort of like a processing, recovering variable materials and other materials from discarded electronic devices and even those which are as in urban waste. 

So it's a form of recycling that's involved extracting and refining variable resources from West Stream that's were previously considered to be of a little or no value. So I give an example like a Samsung. So we have learned that they're going to start for them collecting batteries. This is part of urban mining cause when you find batteries, it has valuable materials inside. But now getting access to it- cause as we know that- to get these variable materials, normally it goes through the traditional mining.

So getting access to these materials, it's tending to be very hard. These materials are re non-renewable, right? So how companies are tapping into it, they're extracting those minerals they need maybe gold, they need copper, they need aluminum, or they need batteries according to what they want to use with it. Battery could be used even to create electricity. There is an amazing innovation happening with regards to how batteries are turning into electricity like in India, in some part of the world. The extraction which happen it's in a way of creating, like creating the value of it, and being reused once again in form of circular processing, circular economy processing. Yeah.

Gael: Yeah, it makes total sense. Is this extraction being done in, I would say good working conditions because both of you mentioned how toxic and dangerous can be waste and especially e-waste management previously. So these urban mining activities, you mentioned also that they're mostly done in the informal sector are workers or freelancers working in urban mining, getting more and more protected, or is it still a bit a Wide Waste I would say?

Jacqueline: I would like to clarify that for Wastezon, you're not recycling industry sort of, so we have this is just a service we do to support recycling household and manufacturers in form of traceability and supply chain of these electronic wastes. But responding to that question, according observation, many countries are setting up policies which need to protect environment, but also people health.

Here in Rwanda, the informal recycling doesn't no longer work because there is very strict, very strict policies for it, in form of protecting people. 

So I don't know how in other countries it's happening but I know that for sure based on the experience I had in Geneva last year when we were looking at the position of e-waste treatment in a developing countries.

Many countries are setting up policies which need to prohibit and protect their people in terms of involving themselves in recycling or instruction of electronic devices. So I would guess that it's getting much better because of the involvement of both sectors, either on government side, but also on the private side, which are like entrepreneurs and yeah.

Gael: Thanks a lot. And Vanessa, is it something that you've noticed also at a broader scale. Jacqueline mentioned the work done in Geneva, for instance. 

Things are getting better when it comes to urban mining?

Vanessa: Yeah, yeah, sure. I mean I see a lot of improvements at global level for sure. At least in Europe, there's a nice and big networks of experts continuously working on improving the accessibility of CRMs. So critical raw materials through recycling and by mining indeed the waste that is a creditor, but across the globe I've seen very nice examples and startups and businesses establishing now in order to improve definitely the recoverability and recyclability of waste. 

So I'm optimistic about that. There's still a big and long path to get to the zero waste target or to the fully circular economy. But still I'm positive about it since I'm seeing very nice examples across the globe.

Gael: And actually, could you elaborate a bit about the potential of switching to a more circular economy? Because we talk a lot about circular economy, but I'm not always sure that everyone has the same definition of it, and especially how much it will help reaching the the ODD and not only the environmental impact that Jacqueline mentioned already several times, and how big traditional mining has a toll on the planet, but all the ODD.

Vanessa: Well, definitely, there are good benefits of adopting circular economy, approaches in the business sector. The way how circular economy is most commonly referred to as let's say the recycling part, right? So really recycling what is already waste and trying to get back the resources into the production chain.

However, circular economy is much more than that, and it starts indeed with sustainable mining and if we talk of mining of new raw materials, ideally is already not a circular economy in a way because that means that we need extra resources to produce new products that we are not able to get back from the recycling at the end of life.

So indeed it starts from the mining or the sourcing of the materials, and then it goes through the production phase and the usage phase. Also the eco-design is a very important aspect of circular economy that in my view, it has been explored very rarely I would say when it comes to electronics so far. The challenges of recyclers are still the same of 10 or 15 years ago, let's say.

So it hasn't become easier to recycle electronics, but it has become rather more difficult nowadays because of the products has become lighter, more compact. There's no more possibility to replace parts of a mobile phone or a laptop. So I believe that when we talk of circular economy, we need to touch upon all aspects of circular economy, not only recycling.

Eco design as a very important role and in addition what Jacqueline was mentioning, the production is also a very big role. Also not really decreasing production levels, but rather sustainable consumption of products is needed in my view to contribute to circular economy.

Gael: So Jacqueline, don't kill me on sight because it might mean the end of your business. 

But if we really wanted to achieve a true circular economy, wouldn't mean to have an obligation for everyone manufacturing something to get it back at some point? 

You know, you manufacture a smartphone, you have to recover it, not your neighbor, not in another country, et cetera.

But basically, if I buy a smartphone, even if I want to get rid of it either because it doesn't work or I want to change, I can go back to a shop or any shop actually and say, boom, "this is a Samsung smartphone, please put it in a box that should be shipped back to Samsung". I know it's a radical proposition, but I would love both of you to comment on it cause that will enable a more radical shift toward they could design.

So what do you think about it? Is it me just being crazy?

Jacqueline: So let me go first. Responding to that question, actually it has a positive, negative side, but I'm looking for positive side. So, first of all, the second hand market for digital equipment can really provide more opportunities for us, refurbishment and repair, repairing of electronics. This has a very core part of our own business at Wastezon.

 That means that there could be an increase in demand of our services actually. People would come back either to be like, "okay, have these devices". So I'd sell it to manufacturers or sell it to manufacturers, or I actually need to refurbish it and repair it on my own and reuse it once again.

 Also secondly, I would say as many people choose to repair or refurbish their electronic devices instead of buying new one. There is also a chance that we could be able to enhance and be able to see environmental impact, as I was always mentioning because of also this new regulation you were saying, which can come in place about repairability of taking back these electronics to the producers on manufacturers cause this is part of the extended producer responsibilities. That's the only way we are seeing the impact could be created. 

And for the negative side, I would say maybe potentially this would decrease demand for on electronic devices. For that it could affect the sales of a new electronic product and in turn, it could also end up impacting the volume of e-waste generated, but also the services we're being able to offer since people are sending it back. But also maybe no longer need this repairing and refurbishment at the same point. But the main important thing here, it's to always understand that the world is involving, and this is not about making money.

The thing here, it's not about making money from waste. We are aiming for the social impact and creating share value benefit among all stakeholders, but most importantly to the world. So that's what we are aiming for. So we always try to stay up to date especially with coming with the technology needed at the market and how to make it easier to both involved people in those household and even those recycling or manufacturers.

So that's how we stay positive into it.

Gael: And what about you, Vanessa, what do you think about my crazy idea?

Vanessa: Thinking more of a global level, this is something we have been discussing also in the context of EPR. No extended producer responsibility multiple times, and this was maybe even the original idea when this extended pro responsibility concept was designed. 

However, looking at the global dynamics and dimensions of the electronic industry, it does not be very easy to set up this system because as you can imagine there are few producers, larger producers in the world that are responsible for the majority of the production of electronics nowadays. But most likely they don't have one representated in each countries in the world.

So this would mean also cross-country shipments. When it comes to cross-country shipments, that is also narrowed down to cross-country, let's say, legislations and agreements on this. So that is a bit of the reason, in my view, why it has been very hard to set up such a system. Ideally, it would be a nice solution for sure.

So I agree with that. In practice, there might be challenges in doing that. But nevertheless the EPR concept somehow embeds this responsibility of producers because yeah, there is a obligation for taking back products. But nowadays, at least in Europe those products that are taken back and sent recycling are just a mix of different brands, they're not brand specific. 

There are some examples though, in the northern of Europe where brands have established their own recycling systems for only their own branded products and have developed technologies on how to optimize recycling for their products. And that may be a good example and it could be in the near future that we will see more than these examples.

Gael: Oh actually Vanessa, that lead me to the final question to both of you. Could you share with us some resource about those initiatives and more generally what you advise us to read or to listen to understand a bit more the e-waste problem, but also some of the solutions that we are trying to put in place worldwide to solve it.

Vanessa: Yeah, sure. In general, when it comes to Unitar definitely you can consult the Unitar website where you will have access to all projects we are working at, and to the results of most major projects. Then I think there you would have a very nice overview of what is the current e-waste situation at global level.

Furthermore, we will, by the end of the year, publish a new version of the Globally Waste Monitor. It'll be at 2023 edition with an update of the data and with additional information, especially on recyclability. There's also websites that I mentioned before that is the has been developed in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union and ISWA. 

Since we are partnering in a global e-waste statistic partnership. Recently, also United Nations Environmental Program and the Carac Foundation joined forces with us to develop the new globally waste monitor. So maybe that website will also provide updates with regards to data.

Additional sources for those initiatives : well, I guess they're very dynamic and there are many updates every day and we actually are not, at the moment, compiling all those updates. But I suggest to follow main brands, the pages of main electronic brands worldwide and their sustainability area.

 There it will be every now and then available information on recyclability and the efforts that the producers do in terms of improving recyclability.

Gael: And Jacqueline, do you have some materials as well? Documents, websites?

Jacqueline: For me as an entrepreneur I would share obviously our website. It really shows more about our work. But the moment you're revamping, re-editing it to make it more professional, but it has everything and more information about our work and the links to our apps.

It really shows about what you're doing and the impact you're creating. Additionally, I would also share the resources about this amazing article I was reading about urban mining. It has the title code : Urban Mining, the relevance of information, transaction costs and externalities. I found it on the Science Direct website.

It's a very long one, but the thing I liked about it, it's really shows the data cause they corrected data among 2,500 Swiss respondents and they even did experience with 15,000 employees of Swiss institutions where they were trying to understand and estimate the reason why people do not particularly value their retired funds and how many of them are not willing to give it away, just like that.

So it really shows the key output about urban mining and the future out of it. There is also this amazing article, which could be sort of like an example of how many big manufacturers are very keen to come in this journey of being responsible about the resources they're sending to the market and how they are involving in sustainability perspective like there is this also amazing article written by Apple. 

I hope I'm not doing advertise for them in this podcast, but it's a real amazing one. It's really shows how urban mining is the future. Apple was saying how they will use a hundred percent recyclable cobalt in materials by 2025.

 This is the approach they're going to take in terms of in industry reading innovation for their recyclable materials, batteries and even secular bulbs. So this is amazing. Actually there is so many amazing article out of there, which is showing how the involvement of different stakeholders in this journey will be exciting very soon.

And hopefully the issue of e-waste be resolved no later than 2030 as SDG is aiming for.

Gael: Well, thanks so much, Jacqueline, and don't worry. Apple will not give any money to this show so you are free to quote them, to mention them, because I'm not sponsored at all.

And if I was sponsored by Apple, I guess it will drain a bit less money on my personal resources to run this show.

So feel free to mention everyone you want. You've already mentioned Samsung and Dell, so that, that's perfectly fine. Well, Thanks a lot, both of you, because I've learned a lot of things. 

That was an episode I really wanted to offer to the audience because we talk that much about e-waste, but it's such on a superficial level and having two of you in the show explaining the data, but also what it meant concretely, the business impact.

That was great. So once again, thanks a lot for joining and I know that many of us, we will have learned a lot of things listening to both of you. So thanks a lot again.

Jacqueline: Thank you so much. Thank you guys for having us.

Vanessa: Thank you. Thank you both and thank you Gael for the invitation and for the opportunity to talk about this important topic.

Gael: And that's it. Thank you for listening to Green IO. Make sure to subscribe to the mailing list to stay up to date on your episodes. If you enjoyed this one, feel free to share it on social media or with any friends or colleagues who could benefit from it. As a nonprofit podcast, we rely on you to spread the word.

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