Devices as a Commons: Limits to Premature Recycling
Owners of electronic devices typically decide whether or when they become e-waste or are still reusable. For a device in a commons model, where devices are collectively owned and managed, we propose restricting this individual choice in favour of the collective choice. This is achieved through external and internal organisational and governance instruments for a commons-based cooperative platform that has developed over the last three years, handling more than 700 computers. As part of that governance, we present the circular product licence, where the ownership of a device is not linked to the first user but resides in a community or organisation responsible for safeguarding its reuse, ensuring that a pool of devices, as a commons, will have a maximised lifetime through multiple reuse cycles. Devices will only be recycled when there is no longer a demand or reuse potential. We describe an algorithm to estimate the use value of the devices, such as laptops and desktops. When this value is too low or has no demand, the community in custody obtains recycling permission; otherwise, a cycle of reuse begins. These open-source tools that are part of the eReuse.org platform bring automation, cost reduction, traceability, and auditability to all the steps in the lifetime of any device included in the commons, across manufacturing, use, reuse, repair, refurbishment, and final recycling.