WRFA partner of new Horizon Europe project fostering a Circular Economy in Digital Health
Organisations’ representatives at the DiCE kick-off meeting
Launched in Oct, 2022, the Digital Health in a Circular Economy (DiCE) project aims to address the issue of increasing digital health waste by targeting every point in the lifecycle of digital health devices from design to disposal. The DiCE collaboration, led by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, involves 20 organisations from 9 countries, representing the manufacturing industry, research, and recycling sectors. As part of this collaboration, the World Resources Forum will contribute to the topics of reverse logistics and the social and circularity lifecycle assessment of new products and business models designed under the project. In addition, it will support the exploitation of the findings and models, and the communication and dissemination work through its extensive global network. The project, which received funding through the European Union’s Horizon Programme, will conclude in September 2026.
Use of digital health devices is predicted to increase rapidly over the next five years, with expected annual global growth rates of almost 20% by 2027. Devices such as smart pill boxes, electronic blood collection devices, wearable monitors, and intelligent labels are the focus of this project. They are increasingly being used to improve healthcare efficiency and conditions for patients but present an expanding e-waste challenge. As with many other electrical and electronic equipment, digital health devices contain critical and valuable raw materials that are important to the European economy. With the latest figures from Eurostat and the United Nations showing that less than 40% of all e-waste is reported as being properly recycled in the EU, and less than 20% globally, this growing waste stream is a challenge.
E-waste from healthcare may pose biological or chemical contamination, leading to its incineration, with or without energy recovery. This means that all item contents are destroyed. With the growth in the use of digital healthcare products and increasing demand for raw materials to manufacture new electronic devices and other equipment, a new approach is needed. The European Union is also pushing for change; of the 16 ethical EU principles for digital health developed by the French Presidency of the EU, four focus on environmental sustainability, including eco-design, reuse, and recycling.
WRFA team members Sonia Valdivia and Adrien Specker at the DiCE kick-off meeting
A central objective of DiCE is to extend a product’s lifetime. DiCE will focus on testing and piloting solutions for a product’s end-of-life. The project will take into consideration design, state of the art refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling technology that could allow maximum recovery of the product, its components and, when reuse options are no longer available, its materials. DiCE will thus support transition from a fragmented and linear “take-make-waste” business model towards a circular and sustainable one, allowing the reuse of products and recovery of components and raw materials.
The project will focus on four products: an ePaper label, a smart wearable sensor, a smart pill box, and an endo-cutter used in surgical procedures, each of which presents different issues. The product innovations developed by the project across eco-design, collection, and reverse logistics will be implemented, tested, and demonstrated in five healthcare systems through community-engaged pilots in Norway, Belgium, Slovenia, Spain, and Germany.
- Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (coordinator)
- Johnson&Johnson Medical BV
- Universiteit Gent
- WEEE Forum
- TU Delft
- Game Solutions Lab
- GRIN AS
- Ruhr University Bochum
- Philips Electronics
- Fundacion Intras
- Regionalna Razvojna Agencija
- Copenhagen Business School
- Institute for Ecology in Industrial Areas
- Mirec BV
More information about the project can be found on the social media pages of the project:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/circular_health