Circular economy project launched to tackle digital health waste

Hospital electrics

The Digital Health in a Circular Economy (DiCE) project, led by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, aims to address the issue of increasing digital health waste.

DiCE says the project will do so by targeting every point in the lifecycle of digital health devices from design to disposal. It has received funding through the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme.

The DiCE collaboration involves 20 organisations from nine countries, representing the manufacturing industry, research, and recycling sectors. The project commenced on 1st October and will conclude in September 2026.

DiCE says the use of digital health devices is predicted to increase rapidly over the next five years, with expected annual global growth rates of almost 20% by 2027.

The project continues that devices such as smart pill boxes, electronic blood collection devices, wearable monitors, and intelligent labels are increasingly being used to improve healthcare efficiency and conditions for patients, but these devices present an expanding e-waste challenge.

As with many other electrical and electronic equipment, digital health devices contain critical and valuable raw materials that are important to the European economy, DiCE says.

Digital health devices contain critical and valuable raw materials that are important to the European economy, DiCE says.

The project explains that e-waste from healthcare may pose biological or chemical contamination, leading to its incineration, with or without energy recovery, which means that all item contents are destroyed.

With the growth in the use of digital healthcare products and increasing demand for raw materials to manufacture new electronic devices and other equipment, DiCE contends that a new approach is needed.

The European Union is also pushing for change; of the sixteen ethical EU principles for digital health developed by the French Presidency of the EU, four focus on environmental sustainability, including eco-design, reuse, and recycling.

The logo for the Digital Health in a Circular Economy (DiCE) project.

A central objective of DiCE is to extend a product’s lifetime, which is why the project will focus on testing and piloting solutions for a product’s end-of-life.

DiCE says it will support the transition from a fragmented and linear “take-make-waste” business model towards a circular and sustainable one, allowing the reuse of products and recovery of components and raw materials.

The project will focus on four products: an ePaper label, a smart wearable sensor, a smart pill box, and an endo-cutter used in surgical procedures, each of which presents different issues.

The product “innovations” developed by the project across eco-design, collection, and reverse logistics will be implemented, tested, and demonstrated in five healthcare systems through community-engaged pilots in Norway, Belgium, Slovenia, Spain, and Germany.

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