Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative

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    Ruediger Kuehr

    Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE or e-waste) is one of the largest and most socially- and environmentally-problematic waste streams in the world today. The Solving the e-waste problem (Step) Initiative is a collaborative global initiative uniquely leading global thinking, knowledge, awareness and innovation in the management and development of environmentally, economically and ethically-sound e-waste resource recovery, re-use and prevention. Step’s Mission is (i) to foster inclusive solutions-oriented member dialogue, cooperation and consensus by providing a global platform for sharing information, knowledge and recommendations founded on expert scientific research and multi-stakeholder sectoral experience. (ii) to work internationally with receptive external partners to develop fair and objective policies to stimulate and demonstrate practical, measured and effective responses to e-waste prevention, management and processes. In doing so, particular attention will be paid to the areas of product design, repair and refurbishment, improved management systems and recycling capacity-building. (iii) to lead the e-waste management discussion worldwide by providing a scientific basis from which to inform and actively change the awareness, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of the international business and consumer public. Led by UNU-IAS SCYCLE, which stands for “sustainable cycles”, Step facilitates research, analysis and dialogue among its more than 65 members from business, international organizations, governments, NGOs and academic institutions around the world. Step has overseen numerous trainings and workshops, as well as the production of several research reports and policy briefs and is advicing governments in the development of policies, legislation and management systems. Members of Step include UNEP, UNIDO, ITU, the Basel Convention Coordination Center for East Asia, the Basel Convention Coordination Center for Africa, US-EPA, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Japan Ministry of Environment, the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), Cisco, Dell, HP, Ericsson, Microsoft, Philips, Umicore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Technical Universities of Delft, Berlin and Braunschweig, and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The core (project) work is achieved through five thematic areas: Policy, ReDesign, ReUse, ReCycle and Capacity Building. Each member contributes to at least one of these areas. They are devoted to research, analysis, facilitation of pilot-projects and the subsequent policy-recommendations that may arise from these fields. Progress is monitored by an international, elected Steering Committee representing key stakeholder groups. UNU-IAS SCYCLE is hosting the StEP Secretariat and the chief research organization of the initiative. But in addition to StEP’s thematic area work individual Step members make pledges to Step for conducting specific work. Among those the grant agreement with US-EPA under the title “Collaborations on (Used) Electronics and Issues related to their Sustainable Production, Consumption/Use and Disposal”. The grant aims to advance the benefits that stand to be gained from synergizing efforts and further fostering closer cooperation between the US-EPA, the Step Initative and UNU-IAS on the topic of reducing the environmental impacts of electronic waste. Specific outcomes from this strengthened collaboration should include: 1. Increased level of harmonization and reduced redundancies among all key stakeholder activities, 2. Enhanced knowledge of the target issue, 3. Initiation of applied, science-based pilot projects in multi-stakeholder consortia, 4. Development of solid recommendations for national and international policy-making based on the results of pilot projects The ‘Best of 2 Worlds’ (Bo2W) is a project under the ‘Recycling’ work of the Step initiative (Solving the E-waste Problem) coordinated by the United Nations University. Bo2W aims to define the best recycling technique for e-waste in emerging economies. It seeks technical and logistic integration of ‘best’ pre-processing in developing countries to manually dismantle e-waste and ‘best’ end-processing to treat hazardous and complex fractions in international state-of-the-art end-processing facilities.