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Circulate on Fridays: 3D-print plastic waste, Industry 4.0 and more…

Every Friday, Circulate rounds up a collection of interesting circular economy related stories and articles. Today, we’re recommending a piece on whether E-waste could represent the next gold rush, a Tanzanian startup using plastic waste as 3D-printing feedstock and more…

Intelligent Assets and the circular economy

Internet of Things (IoT) enabled intelligent assets could play a critical role in enabling a circular economy. The ability of new technologies to sense, store and communicate information to a distributed or central network could play a critical role in enabling an economy that uses and cycles materials and energy more effectively. In a recent article for the Guardian, Jake Peat looks at this issue in detail, in particular outlining the forward thinking work currently happening in cities like Barcelona and Amsterdam. A number of fascinating examples are outlined, including Barcelona’s water management system that utilises citywide sensors to capture information about water supply saving an estimated £40 million annually.

Will there be an E-Waste gold rush?

The challenges related to obsolete electronics and e-waste are well-known. Soldered together, the highly valuable components and materials within mobile phones and computers are difficult to separate out and reuse or recycle. Ultimately, new types of design that more easily allow for repair, refurbishment and disassembly will be needed to develop a more effective electronics sector, but in the meantime, there are a number of innovative technology companies tackling the challenges posed by existing waste. A Mega-Online article has tackled this subject in detail going as far to claim that e-waste could be the next gold rush. The article points out that there is potential to yield more gold from one tonne of e-waste than 17 tonnes of ore.

Tanzanian 3D-printing startup using plastic waste

Staying on the topic of existing waste streams and innovative ways of tackling them in a high value way. A Tanzanian startup expected to launch soon, called Reflow aims to enhance the current waste picker market, where a full-time worker might make less than $1.50 per day, by encouraging plastic collectors to turn their collection efforts into a more valuable product, specifically a filament for 3D-printers. As well as potentially enabling the creation of higher value products, rather than downcycling the fibres, the startup claims that it could increase the average waste picker’s income by as much as 20 times. Read the full article on Fast Company.

Working in the post-industrial world

“The good news is that robots will soon do routine work for us…” Tomas de Lara’s opening line is a little audacious, to say the least, his piece for OuiShare Magazine covers a range of intriguing themes looking at the impact of technology on the future of work, social inequalities and a sense of humanity.

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The Author

Seb Egerton-Read

Seb Egerton-Read

Seb writes daily content for Circulate across the full spectrum of the website's topics. Previously he has spent five years as a freelance writer for a number of websites and blogs. You can e-mail Seb at seb[at]circulatenews.org