Circular Economy Technologist, Irish Manufacturing Research
Digitisation and Industry 5.0 is enabling businesses to rethink the design and manufacture of products to keep them in use in the economy.
Through digitisation, data exchange systems can be implemented to monitor and understand the life cycle of products with insights for circular design as well as greater resource productivity in manufacturing. Data availability and sharing are key to making these improvements, increasing business resilience to supply chain shocks and capturing circular advantage.
EU regulations driving circularity through digitisation
The European Union’s (EU) Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI) is a framework regulation that aims to boost the circularity of the EU’s single market. The SPI is proposing to build in sustainability throughout the entire product lifecycle starting at the design phase.
The SPI also underpins future requirements for all physical goods placed on the market in Europe to demonstrate how they are environmentally friendly, circular and energy-efficient. The introduction of Digital Product Passports (DPP) will be key to operationalising the SPI.
Keeping products in use through digital passports
DPPs allow information to be captured from a product over its life cycle. These passports will contain information on the product’s composition — including material and chemical properties — and on circularity such as service, repair, reuse and recycle data.
Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) are part of the consortia developing ‘CircThread,’ an open-source platform which is building a ‘digital thread’ to connect information across the product life cycle to provide consumers with information on appliances (eg. from materials to design and manufacturing) to enable products to be kept in use in the economy for longer.
Advanced AI can recover secondary raw material
from electronics waste that may be
difficult and hazardous to recycle.
AI as a key enabler of circular innovation
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies have a pivotal role in enabling circular implementation. Advanced AI can recover secondary raw material from electronics waste that may be difficult and hazardous to recycle, as one example.
Peregrine Technologies (trading as FPD Recycling) successfully led the CIRCULÉIRE-funded innovation pilot called ‘RoboCRM’ which prototyped a non-destructive detection method using AI. It can identify and sort electronics containing batteries, which can enable higher-value recovery and recycling of critical raw materials.
Supporting AI Deployment for Circularity
IMR is also leading the EPA-funded ‘AI for Circular Economy’ (AI4CE) project which explores barriers and enablers of utilising AI to accelerate circular implementation in Ireland. The project will develop a toolkit to support companies to accelerate their use of AI to implement circularity.
These advanced initiatives demonstrate how digitisation and Industry 5.0 can enable the scaling up of a circular economy, benefiting businesses and future generations.