Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

Drivers of Eco-Innovation within Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Field

Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

Drivers of Eco-Innovation within Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Field

Article excerpt


As European Commission (2012) defines it, "eco-innovation is any innovation resulting in significant progress towards the goal of sustainable development, by reducing the impacts of our production modes on the environment, enhancing nature's resilience to environmental pressures, or achieving a more efficient and responsible use of natural resources". According to European Commission, it seems that eco-innovation includes both technological and non-technological innovations forms "that create business opportunities and benefit the environment by preventing or reducing their impact, or by optimising the use of resources" (European Commission, 2012). One of the fields in need for eco-innovation is the electrical and electronic equipment field.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment poses a significant risk to the environment for two main reasons: first, the volume in which it is produced; and secondly, due to the environmental impacts associated with waste recycling (currently the most prevalent method for dealing with this type of hazardous waste in Europe).

This field is one which may contribute to greenhouse gases emissions reduction, so innovation is necessary in order to reduce the produced waste, or to reuse the waste products, to recycle it or to recover waste or materials. Boosting eco-innovation in the WEEE field, means discovering the factors that contribute to its development. Indirectly, eco-innovation helps fighting climate change, and offers new answers to old global problems.


Before describing the term of eco-innovation, we consider important to mention some suggestive aspects regarding the concept of innovation and invention. Although they have a similar meaning, innovation refers in general to the realization of new products or services on the market, while innovation is considering more a creation of a new process or activity. Whatever the situation, in order to exist, both versions must be validated by the market (in other words, there must be a producer willing to carry out and a consumer who wants to buy them). A suggestive illustration of this is shown in the figure 1.

Regarding the Eco-innovation concept, we can specify that it is a relatively new concept, born almost two decades ago, when authors started to mention it in their works and developed their researches around it. For instance, Fussler Claude and Peter James are said to be the first ones who used the concept in 1996, in a book called "Driving Eco-Innovation: A Breakthrough Discipline for Innovation and Sustainability" (Morand, 2006). One year later, Peter James daringly defines eco-innovation as "new products and processes which provide customer and business value but significantly decrease environmental impacts" (James, 1997). It seems that till deciding to name it eco-innovation, it was called "innovation toward sustainable development" (Rennings, 2000).

Eco-innovation is part of the "eco-terms" family, along with eco-industry and eco-efficiency. Eco-industry refers to every relevant player on the world markets and a driver of competitiveness in that market (Eco-innovation Observatory, 2011). Eco-efficiency refers to "creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution" (International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2013). Technically speaking, eco-efficiency "is measured as the ratio between the (added) value of what has been produced (e.g. GDP) and the (added) environment impacts of the product or service (e.g. S02 emissions)" (Yu et al., 2013). Furthermore, eco-innovation cannot exist without eco-efficiency. As we stated earlier in this paper, the two broad concept (invention and innovation) cannot exist without a market validation. The same principle is valid for the concept of ecoinnovation, which should be accompanied by terms of eco-efficiency. From this point of view, considering the continuous degradation of the environment due to economic development and growth of the last century, the concept of eco-efficiency should be present in every human activity and should not be confined to eco-innovation. …

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