On one hand, I am quite concerned, adding specific materials that could turn every single object into a “smart” device might actually lead to a contamination of existing waste streams when these objects reach the end of their service life. On the other hand, in a transition toward a circular economy, we aim to preserve the functionality of our products, components or materials for as long as possible. If these additional electronic functions, such as sensing, can be used to support this purpose and, for instance, provide relevant information to facilitate the repair or remanufacturing of a component, this trend can also be seen as an opportunity!
My advice to the printed electronics community would always be to use a systemic perspective for identifying the application areas and use cases in which their technologies could actually help accelerate the transition toward a more sustainable society. We can think about printed electronics in terms of enabling food waste prevention, mobility as a service, etc… Implementing ecodesign activities should become a must. But combining these two complementary (at the product and system levels) perspectives, green printed electronics and printed electronics for green could enable the community to turn an eventual threat to their businesses into a new lever to gain even more market acceptance.
Hopefully, a big audience for my short course on designing for sustainability! More seriously, and as a circular economy researcher, I am definitely looking forward to the dedicated technical conference session on the Circular Economy and Green Electronics on Day 3. I hope that with these contributions LOPEC participants will realize that every value chain actor can and has to play a role for accelerating the transition toward a more circular and sustainable economy. And, more importantly, that this necessary and collaborative transition can also be a source of value creation for them! I hope my contribution to LOPEC 2022 will bring international visibility to our activities at VITO and lead to fruitful collaborations with companies and other research organizations.