Our Circular Future: “We Don’t Want to See the Circular Economy Become a New Marketing Campaign”

by Jacob Solomon Jul 30, 2023 News
Our Circular Future: “We Don’t Want to See the Circular Economy Become a New Marketing Campaign”

By Leila Nachawati.

It was translated by Laura Pérez Carrara.

The life cycle of digital devices has been neglected by the evolution of our digitally connected world. There is an urgent need for transformation after the exacerbation of the climate crisis. We need to rethink our decisions in order to improve our relationship with nature. The quote is from A guide to the circular economy of digital devices. Climate justice is important to how we develop, use and dispose of technology.

In the fourth part of Our Circular Future, Plcido Silva of Colnodo tells us about good and bad e-waste management practices in his country.

The interview has been edited to make it clearer.

You presented achievements and challenges in your case study. Tell us what's happening right now. Is the condition worse or better?

Rural areas that are far from Bogot are covered by our work. The digital divide in which Colnodo works is wide and deep, but we continue to make progress in bringing access to these remote areas, which have not been considered profitable by large providers. The project is trying to close the technology gap by fostering innovation. There are four students per computer today.

The company PCSHEK collects electrical and electronic equipment to see if it can be recycled and delivered to the community. Quality of life for children is being improved.

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What do you think the future of circular economies will look like?

In the case of Colombia, we are seeing a lot of economic activity. The new government wants to foster the circular economy and green growth.

The National Association of Industrial Operators sees these efforts as an opportunity for business development and sustainable practices. Material recycling companies have been strengthened due to this.

What priorities would you highlight in your local setting?

The issue has to do with plastic materials. A treaty is currently being negotiated on pollution caused by toxic substances introduced in polymers, which are materials that are hazardous for humans and the environment. The circular economy is undermined by the use of these substances.

The document "technical guidelines for handling and managing plastic materials recovered from WEEE and dismantled vehicles" was published by the ministry of environment and sustainable development. The guidelines give practical tools and reference material for the value chain responsible for managing recycled waste in particular for those that recycle electrical waste and electronic equipment. This is important for the economic viability of the recycling industry.

Good practices, tell us about them. In the case of Colombia, what policies or regulations would you like to highlight?

The government has been working on regulating parts of the process in the field of electronic waste for a long time.

As consumers, we have learned about and adapted ourselves to this process, following the necessary steps and being responsible with the environment and human health. Everyone is playing their part as people assume a different responsibility.

There are challenges and difficulties. What bad practices would you highlight?

Can we develop a pollution-free circular economy? That is one of the questions. The circular economy allows us to improve production systems, increase prosperity, and cut down raw material demand, but we need to reduce health and environmental risks. People working in this economy need to be trained so they can identify products that are not good for the environment.

The circular economy boom reminds me of a boom that we saw in the 70s, with the concept of "total quality" being used by Japanese companies. It was a marketing slogan that was repeated many times but never translated into good practice. We don't want to see the circular economy reduced to a marketing campaign.

The risk of becoming a trendy project that fails to involve all the variables and the only thing that mattered was the market image is a real risk faced by the circular economy. This approach promotes a green image without making any significant changes or achieving significant results. It's not what we're aiming for or what the planet needs.

What use do you think the guide has? What do you want it to do in the future?

There is an issue that I would like to see dealt with in greater depth. The guide should be used as a basis for the implementation of solutions in certain places around the world. The Media Awareness and Justice Initiative (MAJI), a member of the All Progressives Congress network, has a lot of experience in the use of digital technologies and data gathering for environmental protection. Sharing learning experiences among Africa, Latin America will benefit the community as a whole.

Our Circular Future series

  • In this new series, we reconnect with members who contributed to our guide on the circular economy of digital devices, this time about their vision for the future of these economies. In part one, we speak with CITAD about what is needed in the right to repair movement, emerging trends and lessons learned and missed. Read: “The bottom line is to understand that linearity and growth will not go together”: Introducing Our Circular Future, a series on the future of circular economies
  • In part two of this special series, we spoke with Florencia Roveri at our Argentina-based member Nodo TAU. From supporting youth with future e-waste projects to exploring the challenges to electronic waste treatment, Nodo TAU has been advocating for better ICT recycling practices in the community. Read: Our Circular Future: “Our strength comes from addressing multiple needs like the environment, youth employment and using technology for social use
  • In this third part of our special series on Our Circular Future, Syed Kazi of Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) in India talks to us about how one of the highest-consuming regions of the world needs to urgently adopt circular economy approaches across all sectors. Read: Our Circular Future: “We must adopt the circular economy without waiting for the government to say, ‘Hey, this is a time bomb now’
  • In this fourth part of the series on Our Circular Future, Colnodo’s Plácido Silva tells us about good and bad electronic waste management practices in Colombia and their impact on education. Read: Our Circular Future: “We don’t want to see the circular economy become a new marketing campaign

The concepts and processes of circularity are described in the Guide to the Circular Economy of Digital Devices.

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