AWARE. Raising public awareness on electronic waste as a source of valuable materials

In Europe, Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest growing waste streams with high metal and impurity concentrations. Critical raw materials (CRMs) – defined in Europe as materials important to European economy but at the same time associated with supply risks – are used extensively in electronics. The concentrations of most CRMs in ores is limited and the environmental footprint of their use is quite high. Today, the biggest bottleneck for efficient recycling of small household devices and telecommunication equipment is that a large share of devices is stored at homes and end-up in unknown destinations, instead of dedicated recycling schemes. As a consequence, valuable raw materials are lost.

The focus of the project will be on education and involvement of school children, both to raise the awareness of end-of-life electronics as a resource, and through them to bring the message into families and the society as whole. The aim of the project is to increase the share of waste ending up in official take-back systems instead of losing the resource to waste disposal or incineration plants and collection outside official take-back systems. The project will create new types of education materials co-designed with young people to reach their peers and to involve young people in planning collection campaigns for the end-of-life electronics. The idea is to engage school teachers to be involved in new learning topics, and to distribute information on the circular economy of end-of-life electronics in primary, secondary schools and also high education schools (in Finland) in novel, interesting forms (e.g. games and videos or phenomenon based learning). The main target group for the project is school children with open minds for actions and interest to protect the environment. Besides the school teachers, also university students will be trained to act as envoys in schools. The project will provide the recycling companies, associations and municipalities with new ideas from the pupils for arrangement of campaigns in schools or in society based on feedback from school children.

Specific objectives of the project:

– to collaborate with school children to create inspiring materials and models for teachers to teach their pupils at both primary and secondary school about end-of-life electronics as a future resource.

The focus subjects would be on environment and natural science (in primary schools) and geography (resources), chemistry and physics (in secondary and higher education schools) and circular economy considering the social economics and environmental benefits as a part of new environmental education model.

– to train university students to act as “envoys” to distribute information on basics in the circular economy of end-of-life electronics in primary and secondary schools using innovative methodologies (gamification, hands on activities etc.)

– to involve school children in planning campaigns for the collection of end-of-life electronics using tools and channels familiar for the young generation.

Project duration: 1 January 2019 – 31 December 2020

AWARE is a Wider Society Project funded by EIT Raw Materials.