Think different: Cradle-to-Cradle®SENS Foundation: e-Recycling
Mr Kälin, what does Cradle-to-Cradle® mean in terms of erecycling?
Albin Kälin: The term “lifecycles” is used when talking about electrical and electronic appliances (products). The lifecycle starts off with the product’s design, followed by its usage and, finally, its recycling. Nowadays many products are designed and manufactured with a view towards preserving valuable resources. Recycling takes place in the SENS system in accord- ance with the very latest in technology. That said, the proportion of materials which cannot be recovered in their original quality remains much too high. Consequently, the current system fails to close the material cycle completely.
The Cradle-to-Cradle® concept demonstrates a way in which resources can be recovered and their quality maintained. This is a transformation from a linear to a cyclical material flow.
In this way, the value of all the materials in biological or technical cycles is maintained. Other factors integrated into Cradle-to-Cradle® are water, renewable energies and social responsibility. The challenges for electrical and electronic appliances are particularly great because they are complex appliances. The cooperation project between EPEA Switzerland and the SENS Foundation seeks to demonstrate and implement the Cradle-to-Cradle® approach in electrical and electronic appliances.
Resource efficiency and sustainability are key elements in erecycling. How should the Cradle-to-Cradle® approach be assessed in this context?
Now that resources (end-of-life appliances) are collected and recycled with ever greater efficiency by the SENS system, we are taking a step further with the Cradle-to-Cradle® concept, over and beyond sustainability:
Losses occur from when the products are in the cradle, so to speak, i.e. when they are manufactured, and waste and emissions accrue unavoidably at the “grave” if the resources are not recovered effectively after the products are used.
we are also increasing the
effectiveness of resources. In future we will not only dispose of problem materials from the material cycle, but also define those products with “safe chemistry” and put the materials to positive use (e.g. using carbon dioxide as a foodstuff).
Closing raw material cycles is pivotal to sustainable erecycling. How does the Cradle-to-Cradle® approach affect the closing of cycles and how would it work?
The aim of the Cradle-to-Cradle® approach is to preserve materials in their original quality over several lifecycles. Product design is geared towards the selection of materials, with due regard for the aim of preserving their quality over several life- cycles. Raw materials are selected, treated and processed accordingly. In some areas, the material costs may prove to be more expensive than with conventional products.
This provides businesses with a safeguard against rises in the prices of raw materials and assures them of raw material quality.