On the 13th of June 2019 we attended a talk in the PortoInnovation Hub on Circular Economics of Obsolete Small Electronics (OSEs) in Porto. After short opening remarks by the Vice Major, researchers from the University of Wageningen presented the preliminary results of a research project they launched in cooperation with the Intermunicipal Waste Management of Greater Porto (LIPOR).
OSEs are small electronic devices like computers or mobile phones that lost their original operational purpose. In various surveys in households and electronic businesses, as well as various field observations the members of the research groups analyzed (a) the way households deal with such devices and which infrastructures enables their (b) collection as well as (c) post-collection usage.
To analyze (a), the group made use of a social practice theory, taking into account how household practices are shaped by individual dispositions and intentions, as well as broader social structures. They identified knowledge gaps about the value and available infrastructure of bringing OSEs to official or informal collection points.
The various collection points (b), from municipal collection bins to informal distribution on flea markets, currently have no specific platform for OSEs, which often leads to them being mixed with various electronics that cannot be integrated in upcycling processes. This ultimately leads to many OSEs being unavailable for post-collection use.
They identified three post-collection strategies (c): reusing, repairing, and recycling. Here, they highlighted that a better a cooperation between local inhabitants, municipal entities, and companies that could effectively improve the circularity of OSE.
Subsequently, they elaborated on the communication necessary for functioning OSE circularity. The current communication between the different organizational levels (home – municipality – Portugal – EU) and private entities engaged in establishing circular economies needs to be improved and extended beyond the typical focus group of young educated people.
They ended by proposing four interventions to improve the circular use of OSEs: Setting up new motivational factors, extending collection options, establishing an effective cooperation between Lipor and local stores, and, finally, making the (post-)collection processes more transparent.
After the talk, the audience was divided into several groups, in which we could bring up our personal perspectives on the issues discussed before.