This whitepaper is published as part of the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE), a public‑private collaboration mechanism and project accelerator dedicated to bringing about the circular economy at speed and scale.
The whitepaper examines the plastics packaging and consumer electronics industries. It looks at how Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are used today, and what could be possible in the near future to manage our resources better. The report illustrates 19 Fourth Industrial Revolution solutions that can be applied to accelerate the circular transition in the plastics packaging and consumer electronics sectors. These range from the Internet of Materials and AI‑based design tools through to hyper‑intelligent sorting and disassembly supported by machine vision and robotics.
To make the consumer electronics and plastics packaging value chains more circular, there are five major challenges that must be overcome. The analysis has also shown that innovators are already building solutions around the new and emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Even in demanding settings these technologies – applied in an interoperable way – can help to develop more sustainable waste management systems. To unleash the full potential of 4IR technologies, however, and make the next steps towards completely circular economies in both industries, three things need to happen:
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The report reveals the annual value of global e-waste as over $62.5 billion, more than the GDP of most countries. It calls for an overhaul of the current electronics system, emphasising the need for a circular economy in which resources are not extracted, used and discarded, but valued and reused in ways that minimise environmental impacts and create decent, sustainable jobs.
Improving the quality and economics of plastics recycling is a core objective of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. The Strategy announces a series of actions to achieve this objective, from improving product design to boosting recycled content in products to improving separate collection of plastic waste.
The second World Circular Economy Forum 2018 (WCEF2018) took place from 22-24 October 2018, in Yokohama, Japan. The world’s biggest global gathering on circular economy solutions brought together more than 1,100 leading experts and decision-makers from more than eighty countries to discuss their future visions.