CLEVER - Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

The rapid turnover in consumer electronics, fuelled by increased consumption, has resulted in negative global environmental and social consequences. These appliances are typically disposed of into UK landfills or to developing countries, incinerated, or otherwise 'lost' - very few are recycled. As a result, the metals they contain are not effectively recovered and new materials must be extracted to produce more goods. Reportedly more than half of all UK households are dissatisfied with how long small household appliances last and think they should last longer, yet, while several strategies to extend product lifespans have been developed, they are under-utilized within the consumer electronics market. Materials scarcity, particularly of non-renewable, finite resources, is a global concern and one that UK consumers and manufacturers cannot ignore. To use these resources more efficiently and reduce mounting electronic waste (e-waste), consumers must be encouraged to retain their devices for longer and return them at the end of their life (or before).

To assist in a transition from the current 'throw-away' society towards a new model we will develop a function-oriented business model, called a Product Service System, which shifts the focus from designing (and selling) physical products only, to designing (and selling) a system of products and services incorporating both service and ownership, which are jointly capable of fulfilling consumer needs. In this system component parts with 'low-emotional value', but requiring regular technical upgrade (such as the printed circuit board or flexible circuits) will be owned by manufacturers and leased to customers, and potentially "high-emotional value" components (such as the outer casing) are owned and valued by the customer, so that they become products that are kept for long periods of time. In this project these parts are termed the 'skin' - the outer casing, or the part that the user interacts with directly; the 'skeleton' - the critical support components inside the device; and the 'organs' - the high-tech electronics that deliver the function and which need to
be the most up-to-date parts of the device.

To encourage greater emotional attachment to products, new materials which 'age gracefully' will be developed and consumer responses to these materials explored. To recover component parts quickly and efficiently for recycling and metals recovery, new skeleton materials based on biopolymers will be designed and produced. The most important characteristic of these materials is that they will be stable and robust while in use, but can be triggered to decompose when the device is to be taken apart for recycling. Such triggered disassembly of the innards of the device will facilitate the recovery of the valuable metal containing electronic 'organs' so that these can be efficiently recycled and retained in the closed loop of electronics manufacture. The project will also address the efficient recovery and recycling of some of the most valuable metals contained in electronic devices.

At each stage of development, a social and environmental analysis of the proposed PSS and materials will be undertaken to identify any negative impacts. Together these materials and the new product-service system will enable greater resource efficiency and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (which contribute to climate change) and reducing annual environmental costs of waste being sent to landfill (estimated at £211m), while enabling efficient recovery of metals, thus maximizing use of resources, reducing costs, and improving UK resilience by reducing reliance on imports.

Keeping electronic devices in a closed loop also means they are less likely to become part of the e-waste exported (sometimes illegally) to developing countries, where people may risk their lives to recover the valuable metals by burning, or smelting, processes that may release dioxins, or use mercury.

Planned Impact

This programme is designed around the potential impacts including i) social impacts (behavioural change), ii) environmental impacts (closing the recycling loop), iii) manufacturing impacts (novel materials to enable (i) and (ii)), and economic impacts (novel product-service systems and retention of valuable metals in the manufacturing cycle).
To achieve this we will work with partners along the electronic device supply chain from materials manufacturers and processing aid producers, through electronics manufacturers and retailers, to the end user: individuals who purchase, use and (currently) frequently discard their devices, or relegate these to hibernation, rather than committing them to the recycling loop.
The project provides elements of future-proofing, in particular addressing current known, and future expected, WEEE recycling targets potentially offering means to mitigate future potential for costly redress, or rectification of damage, in developing countries where much WEEE is currently reprocessed in suboptimal circumstances.
Focus on the application of metrics in the form of both environmental impacts, via Life Cycle Assessment, and social impacts, via Social Life Cycle Assessment will provide confidence in the applicability of the technology, and the best route to uptake, without which only academic impact would be realised.
OTHER DISCIPLINES: This project brings together materials engineers, chemists, sustainable designers, social scientists and LCA experts and so impacts on a range of disciplines within the project and, following from academic outputs, beyond the project.
PUBLIC: In the short term, society will benefit from consultation and input into the design of the Product Service Systems (impacting a relatively small number of citizens) and, in the medium to long term, from opportunities to have advanced functional electronic devices, while contributing to a sustainable business model (potentially a very large number of citizens).
SKILLS: The remarkably interdisciplinary nature of the project (which would have been unlikely to develop except under the exceptional circumstances provided by the EPSRC Sandpit model), brings together experts across the academic spectrum. All PDRAs will be exposed to all parts of the programme, thus producing trained, technically and socially astute personnel for a cross-disciplinary workforce. Social scientists will be exposed to sustainable engineering and science and vice versa, providing opportunities for PDRAs to develop interdisciplinary networks that inform their future work. Similarly, PhD students supported will benefit from this environment and from the extra training activities afforded by the workpackages and the association with EPSRC CDTs. Some Co-Is are early career academics and this project will yield expanded networks, future collaboration opportunities and development of transdisciplinary research - impacting positively on their research profiles and careers.
INDUSTRIAL USERS: In addition to the partners identified, this work has the potential to impact on manufacturers of electronic components in the UK (Gwent Electronic Materials); electronic device manufacturers (Philips, Sharp); device retailers (Boots and others in the UK's WEEE Distributor Take back Scheme, run by Valpak); electronics recyclers (to be contacted through the Industry Council for Electronics Recycling, ICER and the Centre for Remanufacturing, Environmental Resource Management); manufacturers of composite casing materials (Formax, Sustainable Composites Ltd) and internal support components, e.g. circuit boards, who will be contacted through SusCompNet (EPSRC funded); and, finally, on producers of the ionic liquid processing aids essential to composite manufacture (IoLiTec, Merck, BASF) and enzymatically triggered decomposition, e.g. Novozymes, TMO Renewables. Many of these companies already engage with the project partners and CI-KTN will assist in engaging further technology users.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We are developing an understanding of how we might close the loop on small consumer electronic devices and so retain the vitally important and valuable resources, e.g. high value metals, in the manufacturing loop. This requires social scientists, designers, materials engineers, chemists and experts in whole lifecycle thinking to work together to develop new product service systems (to ensure that devices are returned to the cycle rather than left to hibernate) and new materials to ease the recovery of the valuable metals.
The project is ongoing, but a number of paper are already submitted or in progress.
The objectives AT THIS POINT in the project have been met.
Exploitation Route This will be followed up on when the publications appear, but there is already contact with a range of organisations interested in the topic from device manufacturers (both well established and emerging e.g. Phonebloks). Further public/industry facing symposia will be conducted to encourage this dissemination.
Sectors Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Retail

 
Description Public and industry-wide dissemination / papers under consideration or in prep. The new materials and materials processing options developed have been applied to the preparation of novel biodegradable materials from renewable reqources. These include biobased and biodegradable microbeads as potential replacements for persistent plastic microbeads and new scavangening materials to enable recovery of PGMs from industrial waste streams, thus enabling the circular economy and enhancing resource efficiency. Further the discourse on the circular economy has been enhanced by publication of a number of papers on the topic (See Hobson et al).
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Chemicals,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

 
Description EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £42,100 (GBP)
Organisation Loughborough University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description Innovate UK, Recovering Valuable Materials from Waste
Amount £454,971 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2015 
End 11/2017
 
Description Industrial application of material ageing research 
Organisation Granta Design
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of plug-in resources for Granta Design's CES Edupack materials specification software, and SCIN's physical and online materials library, to increase designers' knowledge and literacy of material change (wear, ageing, damage etc.).
Collaborator Contribution Access to software and market research data. Hosting and evaluating prototype resources.
Impact Multidisciplinary: materials engineering, product design, architecture, interior design. Outcome: successful application for Impact Acceleration funding (see Funded Projects section).
Start Year 2016
 
Description Industrial application of material ageing research 
Organisation Scin
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of plug-in resources for Granta Design's CES Edupack materials specification software, and SCIN's physical and online materials library, to increase designers' knowledge and literacy of material change (wear, ageing, damage etc.).
Collaborator Contribution Access to software and market research data. Hosting and evaluating prototype resources.
Impact Multidisciplinary: materials engineering, product design, architecture, interior design. Outcome: successful application for Impact Acceleration funding (see Funded Projects section).
Start Year 2016
 
Description Research Collaboration with Prof Munir Skaf and team 
Organisation State University of Campinas
Department Neuroimaging Laboratory
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution PhD student exchange: James Courtenay to UNICAMP; materials prepared and characterised; data supplied
Collaborator Contribution Advanced modelling of materials and interactions; PhD student trained and hosted by UNICAMP
Impact Joint publication: E. Gale, R. H. Wirawan, R. L. Silveira, C. S. Pereira, M. A. Johns, M. S. Skaf, J. L. Scott, Directed discovery of greener cosolvents: new cosolvents for use in ionic liquid based organic electrolyte solutions for cellulose dissolution, ACS Sust. Chem. Eng., 2016, 4, 6200-6207. (invited contribution to special issue)
Start Year 2015
 
Description 'Living Rainforest' debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This was a 'sustainable living' panel presentation and discussion event, with finalists of the Living Rainforest's International Schools Essay and Competition and Debate. My contribution sparked the most questions from the children, who asked many questions about the topic of rare minerals, mobile phones and the circular economy

No other noted impacts that the ones noted above.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description BBC world service - Discovery Programme, interviews with project team 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Not known
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02k55yf
 
Description BRLSI lecture The World Isn't Potty Trained (public lecture) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public lecture delivered by Scott (PI) and a PhD student, Reggie Wirawan as part of his public engagement training. Lots of questions afterwards.

Invitation to present a talk at a school - passed to PhD student as part of public engagement skill training (he is very accomplished at this already).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.brlsi.org/
 
Description Bright Club 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Stand up comedy slot based on environmental impacts of mobile phones
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery, CLEVER, public symposium, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The activity was a public and industry facing workshop, with a series of talks and audience participation/discussion opportunities. Participants from the TSB "The Great Recovery" project and Forum for the Future also presented to contextualise the information about project CLEVER. Lots of new contacts were made, including industry contacts.

A journalist asked for more information (culminating in two high profile press articles) and the CLEVER investigators were invited to participate in a number of future events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Consensus project Advisory Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Meeting in Dublin, where future project plans were commented on, which has helped to shape the direction of the project

Continued membership of the panel and new links/networks with other panel members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.consensus.ie/overview-aims/
 
Description Designing for a circular economy in consumer electronics, Panel discussion C&I Theatre, RWM 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a talk and panel discussion at a large trade fair devoted to recycling called RWM, held at the NEC in Birmingham.

Enquiries from journalists and industrialists.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.rwmexhibition.com/page.cfm
 
Description Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Circularity indicators 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Development of indicators to measure circular economy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Glastonbury 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interactive talk on environmental impact of mobile phones and musical presentation of information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Green Chemistry Seminars@Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, 5 March 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited lecture, Bio-based materials for greener products: from shampoos to electronics - University Colloquim
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Institute of Irish Geographers conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact My paper provoked many questions from the audience.

From this talk, I have been invited to attend and participate in further academic activities, such as becoming a member of the ConSensus Project Advisory Panel (see other entry).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.conference.ie/Conferences/menu.asp?menu=1214&Conference=204
 
Description Invite into EU working panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was invited to participate in 2-stage workshop in Brussels, about the skills and competences of future EU citizens. The contacting agent stated that I was chosen, having read our paper in Futures, and realised that the Circular Economy is a key issue and skill for the future. At the time of writing, this process is still on-going but the stated purpose of these workshops are to influence and feed directly into EU policy around citizens' current and future skills.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited lecture, Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery, Chemspec 2014/RSC symposium 'Waste not Want not' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited talk at a large trade fair: Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery, Chemspec 2014/RSC symposium 'Waste not Want not', Budapest, Czech Republic, 18-19 June 2014. Much discussion followed and interactions with European researchers with similar interests were developed.

Much discussion followed and interactions with European researchers with similar interests were developed. Potential for exploring future funding opportunities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.chemspecevents.com/europe/
 
Description Invited paper to SPACES research institute 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was an invited presentation to the SPACES research institute in Cardiff, to discuss the results of the CLEVER project. The presented paper sparked debate among the audience, with interest in follow-up from audience members (at the time of writing, this happened very recently, so it is too soon to evaluate longer term impacts).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited review panel member for Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Due to my work on the project and publications, I was invited in 2016 to become a 5-year panel member of the Luxembourg research funding organisation Fonds National de la Luxembourg. This entails reviewing annually funding applications on the topics of environmental social science and resource scarcity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk, PE&RC day, Wageningen 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited talk at 'The Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Efficiency', Wageningen, Netherlands, one-day symposium titled "One's waste, another's treasure? - Anthropogenic waste through the lens of an ecosystem", attended by approx. 100 PhD students and academics. The talk was mainly attended by ecologists, leading to fascinating discussion about the parallels between ecological systems and the circular economy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.pe-rc.nl/PD2015
 
Description London International Youth Science Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk to attendees on CLEVER project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description New piece in the Guardian Business section 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A news article appeared in the Guardian Business section, following an interview with a journalist.

Increased enquiries from journalists, including from outside the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/30/innovations-mobile-phone-recycling-biomi...
 
Description News piece in Chemistry and Engineering News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An interview with a journalist resulted in inclusion of details of the CLEVER project in Chemical & Engineering News, a magazine type publication of the American Chemical Society, that is distributed to all of its vast membership (>160,000).

Appearance of this article has prompted lots of contacts from journalists and other organisations e.g. Phonebloks and others.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i35/Dialing-Back-Cell-Phone-Waste.html
 
Description Oxford SPC Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact My invited presentation at this workshop sparked debate, questions and follow-up interest from several participants

After my presentation, I was contacted by several members of the audience with requests for further information and interest in becoming involved in the work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.gtc.ox.ac.uk/images/stories/whatson/sustainabilty_agenda.pdf
 
Description Paper presented at Canadian Geographers Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference paper presented at the annual Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://cag-acg2016.ca/index.php/program/
 
Description Pint of Science (public lecture in a pub) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a public lecture held in a pub! It stimulated much discussion from the adult audience.

We were asked if CLEVER investigators would be prepared to deliver similar accessible information lectures elsewhere, including in schools. Contacts passed to PhD students active in the research as opportunities to develop their own Public Engagement skills (which they already develop well through courses and ongoing engagement activities)>
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://pintofscience.com/
 
Description Portsmouth Summer Fair 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interactive talk on the environmental impact of phones
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description RSC Brazil Roadshow 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This was a series of invited lectures in Brazil, part of an RSC Roadshow, - Campinas (4th Nov), Porto Alegre (6th Nov) and Belo Horizonte (8th Nov), Brazil, 4-8 Nov 2013. The topic was Functional materials derived from cellulose, for sustainable technologies and it resulted in many new contacts.

New contacts for development of new collaborative projects with Brazilian institutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.rsc.org/ConferencesAndEvents/RSCConferences/Brazil_Roadshow/
 
Description Seminar at University of Western Sydney 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This 1 hour seminar on the CLEVER project was well-received and attracted several interesting qusetions and comments afterwards

As a result of this talk, I have been invited onto an Advisory Panel for an Australian Research Council grant into social enterprises and the closed loop economy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Sustainable Materials - the Myths and Realities, lecture at Materials Institute, London, UK, 9 January 2014. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This talk to the London Materials Society, London, UK, 9 January 2014. Talk to a professional audience sparked a lot of discussion afterwards.

Further requests for information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk to Cardiff University 'Understanding Risk' seminar group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hour long seminar presented to the 'Understanding Risk' research group, Psychology Department, Cardiff University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016