Electronics in the circular economy circuit

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 evidenced by the Manutan collection and recovery service.

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

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

Pierre-Emmanuel Espirito Santo: I sincerely believe that, in order to face the challenges of our time, we must be able to overcome these partisan conflicts and try to act in the very ecosystem with the greatest economic and ecological impact. If we really want to get drastic results in greenhouse gas emissions, we must act where they are produced.

Futura: So what’s your solution?

Pierre-Emmanuel Espirito Santo: I created my start-up Zack in 2016. It is a solution dedicated to companies in the fight against electronic waste, from garbage 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 to create local jobs. At the end of the process, the company receives a complete CSR report certified by Ademe, which it can include in its extra-financial reports.

Futura: Why will your startup change the world?

Pierre-Emmanuel Espirito Santo: A company’s digital footprint 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 from their manufacture. More than 5,000 tons of electronic products have been saved from landfills since our creation in 2016 and 50 direct and indirect jobs have been generated in our territory. Our approach also allows us to preserve resources, particularly rare minerals, and recycle them to supply local businesses. The circular economy is no longer an option but a necessity, knowing that electrical and electronic equipment currently represents more than 57 million tons of waste in the world and that it will exceed 70 million tons in 2030.

Futura: How did the project come about and what are the next steps?

Pierre-Emmanuel Espirito Santo: With Timothée Mével, we set up the start-up during our business master’s degree. The idea was initially to combat the waste of e-waste in private homes. So we focused on the business world, because we wanted to have an effect where there are more 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 inputs for companies and communities, which believes in the circular economy and wanted to evolve in the matter. We have strong ambitions to develop new services in used furniture, for example, but also to try to involve the distribution ecosystem and support suppliers in the development of eco-design. It really was an opportunity to be able to accelerate the impact of the circular economy on a large scale.

Futura: If you were the prime minister, what key measure would you put in place?

Pierre-Emmanuel Espirito Santo: I co-created the EC 2027 collective, which brings together more than 250 experts from civil society, academia, business, the public sector and the voluntary sector to bring the circular economy to the public debate. We act both in defense of realistic regulatory measures on the ground, and in raising awareness of the circular economy, but also in creating synergies, namely between companies that have an important role to play in this matter.

Futura: What will the world look like in 2050?

Pierre-Emmanuel Espirito Santo: Two worlds are available to us: one where we will succeed in the ecological transition, and one where we will not. Personally, I want to believe in the first, the one in which we will have achieved carbon neutrality, in which we will have limited the increase in temperatures to 1.5°C. For this, we really need to rediscover our ability to act at the service of the community and the common good.

Futura: By the way, which Futura theme fascinated you?

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

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