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Circular Consumer Electronics: An Initial Exploration

We are increasingly surrounded by ever more complex products, from smartphones and computers to wearable devices. Although these devices have become an essential part of life, most are still treated as if they are disposable.

Built on insights from over 40 interviews with leading companies and researchers, this paper from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation offers an initial overview of how the principles of a circular economy could be applied to the electronics industry, where the industry is in terms of transitioning to such a system, and identifies some actions that businesses can take to begin developing more circular strategies.

Methods of increasing circularity that are discussed include: extending product lifecycles through design, user perception, refurbishment and cloud computing; recovering components and materials through component reuse and material recycling; improving logistics, business models and access to information on product location, condition and recovery potential; and further investigation into the role of residual value and how everything affects and is affected by value.

The paper is based on research supported by Google and undertaken by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2017.

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