Working paper

Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the circular economy: consumer electronics and plastics packaging

Economics Industry 4.0 Waste management Waste minimization Recycling Circular economy

This whitepaper is published as part of the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE), a public‑private collaboration mechanism and project accelerator dedicated to bringing about the circular economy at speed and scale.

The whitepaper examines the plastics packaging and consumer electronics industries. It looks at how Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are used today, and what could be possible in the near future to manage our resources better. The report illustrates 19 Fourth Industrial Revolution solutions that can be applied to accelerate the circular transition in the plastics packaging and consumer electronics sectors. These range from the Internet of Materials and AI‑based design tools through to hyper‑intelligent sorting and disassembly supported by machine vision and robotics.

To make the consumer electronics and plastics packaging value chains more circular, there are five major challenges that must be overcome. The analysis has also shown that innovators are already building solutions around the new and emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Even in demanding settings these technologies – applied in an interoperable way – can help to develop more sustainable waste management systems. To unleash the full potential of 4IR technologies, however, and make the next steps towards completely circular economies in both industries, three things need to happen:

  1. Digitize the material flows
  2. Join up solutions
  3. Drive systems leadership
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