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Investigating the requisites of increasing the reuse of waste electrical and electronic equipment in the UK

Waste minimisation is key to implementing the circular economy. Circular economy is a concept that promotes the efficient use of resources, by retaining them in the economy for as long as possible, thereby increasing their longevity. This can be achieved by creating loops that feed resources back into the system by extending the service life of a number of goods, via remanufacture, repair and reuse. Reuse of goods, especially of used electrical and electronic equipment is considered to be a particularly important loop as it conserves a range of valuable components (e.g. rare earth metals, glass, plastic, etc.). It can occur via many different routes and may involve many actors.

In the UK reuse of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is particularly challenging. This is due to the lack of attention from both policy makers and the waste management industry. Small and medium enterprises that facilitate the recovery of used electrical and electronic equipment, repair and resale have recently been established, demonstrating that reuse could increase in the future. This project, using one of the emerging and successful SMEs, will characterise the input waste electrical and electronic equipment to get an insight into the sources and types and potential reusability of WEEE.

The project will aim to assess the positive and negative impacts of WEEE management via reuse, looking at the potential of maximising value (environmental, economic, social and technical) from different types of electronics and electrical equipment. Using the input-output data from  SMEs the project will try to get an insight into which products can be reused more readily, in order to understand how product design and manufacture affect reusability, and hence the circularity potential of these products. An inventory of WEEE received and reused will be developed, using a number of criteria (e.g. number of components repaired, parts replaced, degree of difficulty, remaining functionality). This inventory will then be used to map inputs against the marketability potential of the outputs after repair, and to understand how to work with local population in order to ensure that most electronics reach SMEs facilitating WEEE reuse, instead of being wasted. 

References:

Iacovidou, E., C. A. Velis, P. Purnell, O. Zwirner, A. Brown, J. Hahladakis, J. Millward-Hopkins and P. T. Williams (2017). Metrics for optimising the multi-dimensional value of resources recovered from waste in a circular economy: A critical review. Journal of Cleaner Production 166: 910-938.

Xu, Y., L. Zhang, C.-H. Yeh and Y. Liu (2018). Evaluating WEEE recycling innovation strategies with interacting sustainability-related criteria. Journal of Cleaner Production 190: 618-629.

Parajuly, K. and H. Wenzel (2017). Potential for circular economy in household WEEE management. Journal of Cleaner Production 151: 272-285.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.