Electronics in the loop of the circular economy

The circular economy can profoundly transform all sectors and all value chains, particularly in terms of electronic waste which has a significant ecological impact, as proven by Manutan’s collection and recovery service.

According to Ademe, the manufacture of a 2 kilo computer requires 800 kilos of raw materials, 240 kilos of fossil fuels and 1.5 tons of water. An ecological impact that could be reduced if we fight against electronic waste, as Pierre-Emmanuel Saint-Esprit, circular economy director of the Manutan group, is trying to do.

Futura: What do you say to those who consider that the circular economy and large groups are not compatible?

Pierre-Emmanuel Holy Spirit: I sincerely believe that to meet the challenges of our time, we must be able to overcome these partisan conflicts and try to act within the very ecosystem that has the greatest economic and ecological impact. If we really want to obtain drastic results on greenhouse gas emissions, we must act where they are produced.

Futura: So what is your solution?

Pierre-Emmanuel Holy Spirit: I created my start-up Zack in 2016. It is a solution dedicated to companies for the fight against electronic waste, from waste collection to resale, reconditioning or recycling locally in France. What is not salable is given to our partner associations. Each of these steps was entrusted to an integration company in order to create local employment. At the end of the process, the company receives a complete CSR report certified by Ademe, which it can include in its extra-financial reporting.

Futura: Why is your start-up going to change the world?

Pierre-Emmanuel Holy Spirit: The digital footprint of a company is made up of 80% of the electronic products used by its employees if we take into account the carbon footprint and the resources required since its manufacture. More than 5,000 tons of electronic products have been saved from landfill since our creation in 2016 and 50 direct and indirect jobs have been created in our territory. Our approach also makes it possible to preserve resources, in particular rare minerals, and to recycle them to supply local businesses. The circular economy is no longer an option but a necessity knowing that electrical and electronic equipment represents more than 57 million tons of waste in the world today and that it will exceed 70 million tons in 2030.

Futura: How was the project born and what are the next steps?

Pierre-Emmanuel Holy Spirit: With Timothée Mével, we set up the start-up during our entrepreneurial master’s studies. The idea was initially to fight against the waste of electronic waste in private homes. We then focused on the business world, because we wanted to have an effect where there are the most challenges and impacts. Since February 2022, we have been part of the Manutan group, a European BtoB e-commerce player specializing in the distribution of equipment and supplies to businesses and communities, which believes in the circular economy and wanted to make progress on the subject. We have strong ambitions to develop new services on used furniture, for example, but also to try to involve the distribution ecosystem and support suppliers in the development of eco-design. It was really an opportunity to be able to accelerate the impact of the circular economy on a large scale.

Futura: If you were Prime Minister, what key measure would you put in place?

Pierre-Emmanuel Holy Spirit: I co-created the EC 2027 collective, which brings together more than 250 experts from civil society, academia, businesses, the public sector and the voluntary sector to place the circular economy in the public debate. We act both in advocacy on realistic regulatory measures on the ground, in raising awareness on the circular economy but also by creating synergies, in particular between companies which have a major role to play on the subject.

Futura: What will the world look like in 2050?

Pierre-Emmanuel Holy Spirit: Two worlds are available to us: one where we will have succeeded in the ecological transition and the other where this will not be the case. Personally, I want to believe in the first, the one where we will have achieved carbon neutrality, where we will have limited the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C. To do this, we really need to regain our ability to act in the service of the collective and the common good.

Futura: By the way, which topic of Futura fascinated you?

Pierre-Emmanuel Holy Spirit: To solve a problem, it must be studied and defined precisely. The scientific approach is fundamental in the transition and Futura’s contribution is effective in this. The article on the pollution of microplastics and the proposed solution impressed me.

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