Take back and treatment of discarded electronic products (E-waste)
Speaker:Prof. Dr. Ir Ab Stevels
Design for Sustainability Lab
Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands
Date & Time:12 Dec 2012 (Wednesday) 15:00 - 16:30
Organized by:Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Take back and treatment of discarded electronic products (E-waste)

It is necessary, it is useful and it is rewarding!

As an introduction the importance of take back and treatment of E waste will be positioned in the broader field of ecoactivities on electronic products. This will be done based on a book which I have written based on my twenty years’ experience- both in industry and academia- in the field. (This book is now also available in Chinese)

The chief messages of this book apply in particular to the E-waste field:

  • Meaningful strategies for law making, collection, treatment and materials upgrading can only be developed on basis of facts.
  • There are a lot of opportunities to combine environmental gain and enhancement of the business.
  • These opportunities are product specific ( no one size fits all)
  • In the application there is need to set priorities ( you cannot have it all)
  • The programmes to be implemented depend on the technical and financial possibilities but are also to be considered from a consumer and a societal perspective.

These principles will be demonstrated on basis of practical examples in the field of E-waste treatment. Examples include the relation between product characteristics and recycling /toxic control strategies. Also reuse/remanufacturing versus material recycling will be addressed. Disassembly analysis resulting in lower treatment and lower assembly cost is an important example for ‘win-win’. The same holds for developing optimal strategies for mechanical treatment and separation. More in general making improvement agenda for Design for Recycling (design), for treatment technology (investment) to be applied and for system organization (management), the messages mentioned above can be applied. Even in learning lessons from take back and treatment systems already in place (Europe) its essentials can be easily recognized.

Closing remarks will include recommendations for chief stakeholders in the field like governments, producers, recyclers and universities.


Ab Stevels was born in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) on Aug. 31, 1944.

After Grammar School he studied Chemical Engineering at the Technical University of Eindhoven and took a Ph. D. degree (cum laude) in Physics and Chemistry at Groningen University.

As of Sept. 1969 Ab has worked for Royal Philips Electronics in a many fold of capacities in research on materials, production technology of glass, as a business manager in electro optics and as a project manager for joint ventures and licensing in Asia.

On Jan 1, 1993 he became a senior advisor in Environment at the Environmental Competence Center of Philips Consumer Electronics.

In December 1995 Ab was appointed as a part-time professor in Environmental Design at Delft University of Technology. In the fall of he was visiting professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department of Stanford University, in the fall of 2001 he was teaching at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the TU Berlin, in 2002 he was visiting the School of Industrial Systems Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta). In 2003 he was a visiting professor at the Industrial Ecology Program at NTN University in Trondheim, Norway and in 2005 at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

This was followed by shorter stays at Hong Kong Polytechnic in 2006, TU Ostrava (Czech Republic) in 2007, Pohang (Korea) and Guangzhou (China) in 2009 and Adelaide (Australia (2010)

Ab Stevels has done trailblazing work in making Eco-Design into day-to-day business really happen and has researched in detail the setting up of take-back and recycling systems for electronics For these purposes tools and management procedures have been developed which have proven their strength through their practical success.

Ab is the author of some 200 journal articles and conference contributions. Training courses on applied Eco-Design have been held at various universities (Delft, Stanford, TU Berlin, TU Vienna, TU Ostrava, the University of Arts and Design in Farnham (UK) , Mexico City, Hong Kong Poly, NTNU), Tsinghua University, and at various Philips departments and divisions around the globe and at other companies.

For his work in Eco-Design he got an honorary degree from the University of Arts and Design. For his contributions in the field of recycling of electronics he got the "Cowbell Award" from the International Electronics Recycling Conference Organization.