Sharing is Caring: Replicating solutions to the global e-waste challenge

16 Jun 2016

 A collection of selfies from the highly successful 'Meet-you-walks' activity.

By Patrick Haverman - 

Last week we invited delegations from 13 different countries to come visit us here in China. Our visitors came from India, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Jordan Mexico, Maldives, Egypt and Zambia.

The visitors were not coming to China for the usual reasons, not to see the Great Wall, nor the Forbidden City. They were here to learn about something that amounts to more than 35 Great Walls of China, and that is e-waste! (Did you know there are 2.6 billion smart phones in use worldwide? If you were to lay them end to end you would have 35 Great Walls of China!)

More specifically, they were here to learn about the innovations and solutions that China has been using to tackle the issue of e-waste and how these can be replicated and applied in their own countries.

Over a three day interactive and diverse workshop organized by our colleagues from the innovation and environment team, the delegates visited the Ministry of Environment and Protection (MEP/FECO), took a field trip to a recycling factory and finished up at the headquarters of our private sector partner, Baidu.

Determined to create a workshop that was engaging and interactive, and different from the normal government-run formula of workshop, with great support from innovative minds in the office, we incorporated as many participatory activities as possible with different table settings, fast paced presentations called PechaKucha, meet-you-walks and SDG matchmaking. 

The workshop created a platform for information sharing between countries, and presentations from China to share the different experiences in managing the mounting e-waste recycling challenge, and deep dive of the business model of Baidu Recycle. The app in China is free and available to copy and use by the other countries, in the hopes that they will be able to replicate some of the efforts and be applied worldwide.

The event included a Skype presentation by Fabio Duarte, Programme Lead of MIT Senseable City Lab, demonstrating their recent e-waste effort: MONiTour, a joint project between the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the MIT Senseable City Lab which has led to the discovery of previously unknown international electronic waste routes departing from the United States.

After hearing from all the delegates in their PechaKucha presentations, it is clear the extent that e-waste is an issue across many borders, and an issue that is relatively new to deal with. Together we can learn, encourage and copy from each other to tackle the issue head on.

By the end of the workshop everyone was inspired to take what they had learned back to their own countries, and had shared many new ideas of how we can all continue to collaborate with each other. One idea was that all countries allocate a small budget for ‘e-waste trackers’ from MIT, allowing us to all work together on a concrete project, whilst demonstrating that e-waste is a global problem. Furthermore, plans were brainstormed and pitched on how we can actually adjust the business model and recycle app and apply it in other countries.

We all left the workshop motivated to aim further and higher. The workshop is not the end but a start of something new. It is undoubtedly a big challenge but through the partnerships cemented in those 3 days we are in a better position to work together 

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