eWaste Meeting

All registered attendees at the World Computer Congress are welcome to attend the eWaste Meeting being held as part of the 13th Human Choice and Computers conference.

eWaste is a growing problem.

A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)” report in 2015 said that “Each year, the electronic industry – one of the world’s largest and fastest growing – generates up to 41 million tonnes of e-waste from goods such as computers and smart phones. Forecasts say that figure may reach 50 million tonnes already by 2017” –  an alarming annual growth rate.  Worse still, most of this waste is not properly recycled, but sold off illegally, or simply dumped.   As the report continues,  “Up to 90 per cent of the world’s electronic waste, worth nearly US$19 billion, is illegally traded or dumped each year.”

But, as UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, saidin 2014, “Sustainable management of e-waste can combat poverty and generate green jobs through recycling, collection and processing of e-waste, and safeguard the environment and human health from the hazards posed by rising levels of waste electronics. Smart public policies, creative financial incentives and technology transfer can turn e-waste from a challenge into an important resource for sustainable development.”

Janez Potočnik, then European Commissioner for Environment, said in July 2014, “It takes a tonne of ore to get one gram of gold. But you can get the same amount from recycling the materials in 41 mobile phones.”  In the same speech, he called for the EU to become a “zero waste” society, with a “circular economy” and announced a target of 70% recycling across the EU by 2030.

What are the solutions, and what can IFIP do to help? A few thoughts are:

  • We need to press the industry for more recyclable electronics – a recyclable end-life for all electronic products should be part of the design
    • Challenging in-built obsoleteness may be a longer-term aim.
  • Shredding, rather than disassembly should be absolutely discouraged, as this works counter to the aims of a “circular economy”
  • Producers and recyclers – currently living in different “worlds” both in terms of industrial belonging, culture, status, power, etc need to overcome the cultural divide between “blue chip company” and “scrap company”, between the global nature of most producers, and the local nature of most recyclers, and talk to one another – reach agreements, pacts, supply chains…
  • Rare earth metals in particular should be recycled, as they are in great need, and are currently hardly recycled at all
  • Clearer information on any hazardous materials in electronics needs to be available to recyclers – for the sake of their health – and minimized in the production

Proposed Action Plan

In consultation with GA Member and former IFIP President Leon Strous, David Kreps (TC9 Chair) drew up the following action plan after the IFIP General Assembly in Sri Lanka.  The meeting in Poznan is at Point 7 of this plan:

  1. November 2017: TC chairs asked whether they have people in their TCs / WGs that could and would be willing to contribute to a position paper on the topic, and join an informal ‘eWaste Action Group’
  2. 15th December 2017: Deadline for responses with names and contact details to David Kreps.
  3. January/February 2018[virtual] Discussions within this ‘eWaste Action Group’ towards a PLAN for what the position paper should address, in more detail, and what the goal of the position paper could or should be, led and facilitated by David Kreps.
  4. February 2018: Presentation, by David Kreps, of this draft PLAN in the TA meeting held virtually before the next IFIP Board meeting. Discussion/Amendment.
  5. March 2018: This PLAN tabled on the Agenda of the Board 2018 meeting, by TA Chair.
  6. April 2018:David Kreps has incorporated the comments from the Board 2018 into the writing up of a first draft by the eWaste Action Group, [in a virtual space, e.g. Google Docs] to be discussed in Poznan.
    1. Link to Draft to be posted here in September
  7. September 2018: A separate session scheduled at WCC with interested people, including those of the ‘eWaste Action Group’ able to attend, to discuss and fine tune this DRAFT at WCC2018
  8. September 2018: I propose I/we present this DRAFT to the GA 2018, for comment/discussion
  9. October 2018 – August 2019: We will then have a full year to work on a final draft for approval at GA 2019, with publication following.
  10. September 2020: At WCC 2020, if it fits in the plans of the organizers, it could be elaborated in WCC sessions.