A consortium of industry and academic groups – led by Johnson & Johnson’s pharma division Janssen – has been set up to tackle the environmental impact of digital health products, specifically aimed at minimising waste that could end up in landfill.
The Digital Health in a Circular Economy (DiCE) group was formed earlier this year with the aim of developing ways to “design, collect, directly reuse, refurbish, remanufacture and recycle digital health devices.”
The programme has been set up to develop four devices – an e-paper label, smart wearable sensor, smart pill box and endo-cutter used in surgical procedures – with funding from the EU’s Horizon Europe programme and support from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum.
The four devices will be put through their paces in real-world healthcare settings via pilot projects in Norway, Belgium, Slovenia, Spain, and Germany. The project started on 1 October and is scheduled to complete in September 2026.
“DICE will contribute to mitigating the globally expanding health waste problem covering three material streams – electronics, plastics, metal – and alleviate shortage of critical and valuable raw materials, while protecting the health and safety of those involved in realising the circular economy,” according to the group’s mission statement.
— Circular Digital Health (DiCE project) (@circular_health) October 13, 2022
DiCE includes 20 organisations from nine countries, representing the manufacturing industry, research, and recycling sectors.
The WEEE Forum said that the programme will address the issue of increasing digital health waste by targeting “every point in the lifecycle of digital health devices from design to disposal.” A central objective of DiCE is to extend a product’s lifetime.
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 present an “expanding e-waste challenge.”
Other objectives are to reclaim critical and valuable raw materials in devices – Eurostat and UN figures show that less than 40% of all e-waste is reported as being properly recycled in the EU, and less than 20% globally – and to prevent biological or chemical contamination from digital health products.
The WEEE Forum notes that out of 16 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.
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