The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) has published a report that details actions and recommendations on circularity in the electronics sector in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The report focuses on general considerations related to national sovereignty and international cooperation and alignment for a circular economy, as well as more specific recommendations for the focus countries and the CEE region.

Titled, ‘Toward a Circular Economy for the Electronics Sector in Central and Eastern Europe: Overview, Actions and Recommendations,’ the report notes that increasing production, consumption, and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) are linked to emissions of chemicals of concern and resource losses. With EEE’s increasing consumption and rapidly growing streams of e-waste, ‘Hazardous Substances Within the Life Cycle of Electrical and Electronic Products’ was adopted as an emerging policy issue under SAICM, and SAICM stakeholders endorsed a life-cycle approach on related actions. Since then, work on the GEF-funded project, ‘Global Best Practices on Emerging Chemical Policy Issues of Concern under SAICM,’ has focused on developing tools and guidance for acting to better manage and control chemicals of concern along the EEE value chain.

With EEE consumption increasing in high-income countries (HICs) for many years, most of those countries have established infrastructure and accumulated knowledge to facilitate the sound treatment of e-waste. However, in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where EEE consumption has also been increasing, infrastructure for sound e-waste treatment is either still in its infancy or must be strengthened to adequately handle higher volumes of e-waste. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe are, or until recently were, LMICs but have experienced considerable economic growth in recent years. Spurred by these developments, the publication: provides insights into EEE production, consumption, and e-waste in the CEE region; assesses the status and conditions of the circular economy in the EEE sector in the region; and provides recommendations and a roadmap to progress toward a more circular EEE value chain in the region.

The report addresses the status of the circular economy in the electronics sector in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Georgia, and Moldova, looking specifically at the following in each country:

  • EEE manufacture and production;
  • EEE consumption, use, reuse, repair, and end of life;
  • Extended producer responsibility (EPR) and certification;
  • Policies on EEE and e-waste;
  • Science and innovation; and
  • Recommendations toward a circular economy in the EEE sector.

The report offers recommendations and a roadmap for the four countries and the wider CEE region, detailing steps and measures that could support progress toward a fully functional circular economy. It explains that transitioning toward a circular economy in the electronics value chain requires a holistic approach, addressing product design and manufacturing phases, including how products are designed with respect to the use of chemicals of concern, durability, repairability, and recyclability, and whether products are made from secondary or primary materials. Regarding the consumption and use phase, the recommendations focus on the availability and accessibility of repair services and spare parts, as well as on how long products are used.

Regarding the end-of-life phase, the report focuses on whether products are collected and treated adequately at the end of their life to maximize their reuse or reuse of their components and the recycling or sound disposal of materials. For the all-value-chain phases (data collection and environmentally sound e-waste management), the report highlights that sound and robust data across the life cycle stages of products are needed to guide transition toward a circular economy and to assess progress.

The report also stresses that enforcement of a circular economy in the region requires establishment of a legal socioeconomic framework that favors circular businesses and sustainable consumption and production patterns over linear ones. 

Circular economy is under discussion in the talks toward a post-2020 framework or platform for the sound management of chemicals and waste that will replace SAICM. The new instrument is expected to be adopted at the fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) in September. [Publication: Toward a Circular Economy for the Electronics Sector in Central and Eastern Europe: Overview, Actions and Recommendations]