How do Europe’s ecodesign measures affect the circular economy in low-income countries? This question was discussed in a recently published paper: which was written by the Green Alliance, a partner of UnternehmensGrün in the ACES-Project (Alliance of Circular Economy Solutions), on behalf of Tearfund.

In many low-income countries, according to the authors, the circular economy generates millions of jobs, such as recycling or reparation. In Ghana, for example, 80 per cent of electronic products are getting refurbished and more than 30,000 people work in this industry in Accra alone.

The majority of these products originate in Europe, e.g. 90  per cent of all disposed computers from the EU end up in countries of the Global South. However, there is also a downside: the electronic devices contain a lot of toxic materials. Under appropriate conditions the recycling is save, but in most countries the recycling is carried out in informal conditions without the necessary safety regulations.

The paper draws three conclusions:

  1. Ambitious, open design standards could improve the livelihoods of repair and remanufacturing entrepreneurs in the Global South.
  2. Restrictive standards that allow manufacturers to exert a monopoly over repair and upgrade could damage these livelihoods.
  3. Restricting the use of hazardous chemicals (like those on the list of Substances of Very High Concern) could improve the health of huge numbers of children and adults currently involved in the informal recycling of electronics.