Rémy le Moigne: Eliminating the concept of electronic waste

Each household in France owns an average of a hundred pieces of electrical and electronic equipment. And this number will keep growing with home assistants, wireless headphones, virtual reality headsets and smart watches.

Unfortunately, the more equipment we own, the more we trash. Waste electrical and electronic equipment is currently considered to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the European union, growing at 3-5 % per year.

To recover high value materials from waste, the electronic and electrical equipment industry has massively invested in collection and recycling infrastructures. But today, results are disappointing: in Europe only 35 % of discarded e-waste is properly collected by formal recycling systems while the valuable rare elements are almost entirely lost during recycling.

The end-of-pipe approach, recycling end-of-usage products, cannot be the only solution. The industry needs to review the way electrical and electronic products are designed, manufactured, used, and collected to keep them out of the waste stream.

However, today, manufacturers have little economic or legal incentive to manufacture products designed for repair, reuse or refurbishing. Why would they spend additional money designing modular components, manufacturing repairable products or buying durable parts if they cannot capture back part of this value? But incentives will change when vendors choose to refurbish their own devices or sell their appliances as a service. And it is already happening today. For customers looking for long lasting products, Miele build many updatable appliances, making it possible to re-programme electronic units or upgrade products to include the latest technological advances.