Optimising Raw Material Reuse and Recovery in Electronic Products

Renewable energy technologies (RET) and information and communication technologies (ICT) play a vital role in the transition to a digital and zero-emission Europe. However, these technologies are manufactured using raw materials that the European Union clusters as ‘critical’. This means that these materials are vital to the economy, but also that their supply is at risk because they come from conflict zones or are largely controlled by one or just a few countries. Changes in geopolitical situations can quickly and adversely affect the supply chain for such raw materials.

To address this, the European Union is looking for ways to strengthen its resilience with regard to ‘critical’ materials. One such way is focusing on ‘critical’ materials contained in products that are already in use in Europe and keeping them in the loop for as long as possible. To support this goal, the Circular Economy Resource Information System (CE-RISE) project will develop a platform to provide stakeholders, including consumers, with a better understanding of the green credentials of electronic products and how to preserve important raw materials through the reuse, repair and recycling of these items.

A consortium composed of leading experts representing the entire value chain of electronic products as well as IT experts and research institutions have joined forces in this four-year project to create a data platform that will share detailed information on these products.

The project will comprise of the following stages:

  • Defining a set of criteria to evaluate the extent to which products and embedded components can be reused, repaired, refurbished and/or recycled – the so called ‘RE criteria’;
  • Incorporating information on RE criteria and the material composition of products into a Digital Product Passport (DPP) to enable traceability of materials in the supply chain;
  • Integrating DPP with information on the product environmental footprint (PEF), and socio-economic and environmental (SEE) impacts of RE processes;
  • Enabling confidential and anonymised information sharing among actors throughout value chains;
  • Providing open access software application to disseminate information on the assessment of RE criteria, PEF and SEE impacts of products to all stakeholders including consumers and policymakers.

The functionality of the CE-RISE information system and products will be evaluated by five case studies in which a Digital Product Passport will be developed for ICT products, printers, solar panels, batteries as well as heating systems.

“CE-RISE, aims to increase the lifetime of raw materials by creating an information system that will enable the sharing of necessary information among actors in the value chains about the content and composition of products. This will optimise their repair, reuse and recycling, and the recovery of the resources they contain. In doing so, it will facilitate an increased autonomy in Europe for key value chains, such as that for critical raw materials”, explains CE-RISE project coordinator Golnoush Abbasi. Moreover, Abassi points out that CE-RISE will allow consumers to make more sustainable choices as they will be able to compare the environmental and ethical footprint of products based on the SEE impact information on DPPs.

In the course of the joint work, the CSCP will support in identifying the above-mentioned RE criteria and SEE parameters based on international, EU and national legal requirements and voluntary standards as well as how these are harmonised, implemented and monitored. Building on this, the CSCP will provide recommendations for the efficient and effective implementation of RE criteria, complemented by recommendations for raising awareness and applying a systematic approach to future DPP developments. In addition, the CSCP will be responsible for developing training and learning materials for the different actors along the value chain to familiarise them with the DPP and RE criteria as well as provide guidance to case study partners and potential users on the use and functionality of the CE-RISE platform and tools. Finally, the CSCP will also be involved in developing the theoretical framework for the five case studies that will subsequently be used to test the functionality of the CE-RISE information system.

Launched in January 2023, the CE-RISE project, led by NILU, involves 28 partners from 11 countries. The project is funded under the framework of Horizon Europe and will end in December 2026.