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Launch of the UNESCO Chair in Green and Sustainable Electronics at Polytechnique Montréal

June 19, 2023 - Source : NEWS

Polytechnique Montréal is taking the lead in the fight against the global electronic waste crisis as the host institution of the UNESCO Chair in Green and Sustainable Electronics (known locally as ÉleVéS, an acronym derived from the chair’s French name). This initiative brings together Canadian and international expertise in the fields of engineering, chemistry, health, economics and the environment.

Électronique verte et durable. (Image : Adobe Stock)
(Image : Adobe Stock)

Dr. Clara Santato, Full Professor in the Department of Engineering Physics at Polytechnique, is holder of the chair, which aims to promote both innovative and pragmatic solutions to the problem of waste electronic equipment (e-waste). ÉleVéS will target every link in the lifecycle chain of electronic devices, taking a holistic approach that incorporates science, technological innovation, social innovation and education with a view to transforming the production, consumption and management of such devices, in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.

This major project involves partners on three continents, with the University of British Columbia (Canada), the American University in Cairo (Egypt), St. John’s University of Tanzania, the University of Milan (Italy), Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar (Senegal), the University of Burundi, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, along with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Pretoria and iThembaLABS (all in South Africa) pooling their expertise.

“My hope is that this chair will influence our practices and the way we manage electronic devices over their full lifecycles," says Professor Clara Santato. "Polytechnique Montréal has the tools required to establish itself as a global leader in this field.”

“We are exceedingly proud to host the UNESCO Chair in Green and Sustainable Electronics," says François Bertrand, Vice President, Research and Innovation at Polytechnique Montréal. "Initiatives like this one are wholly in keeping with Polytechnique Montréal’s mission of advancing innovative solutions for society that adhere to environmental, social and governance criteria.”

The equivalent of 350 cruise ships

According to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, humans generated no less than 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste in 2019, which is equivalent to the mass of 350 cruise ships. Barely 18% of that waste was processed in facilities dedicated to materials recycling or reuse. The majority of electronic goods discarded end up contaminating soil, water and the air, in turn endangering ecosystems.

In contributing solutions that consider local as well as global parameters, the UNESCO Chair in Green and Sustainable Electronics intends to train the scientists and policy-makers of tomorrow to ensure that best practices in electronic device design and recycling are adopted across the globe. From a technology standpoint, it will support projects ranging from introduction of biomass-derived materials into electronic device manufacturing to improving the environmental impact of urban mining processes, designing supercapacitors using spent lithium batteries, and developing tools to use devices more efficiently.

On the social level, the UNESCO Chair will focus on optimizing the electronics industry’s innovation ecosystem. As such, its approach will foster the creation of sustainable economic opportunities and inclusion of local communities in e-waste management and recycling processes.

About the UNESCO Chairs

Inaugurated in 1992, the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Program promotes international inter-university co-operation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge-sharing and collaborations. 
The program supports the creation of UNESCO chair and UNITWIN networks in areas related to UNESCO’s fields of competence, i.e., education, the natural and social sciences, culture and communication. It encompasses more than 850 institutions in 120 countries.

Through this initiative, universities and research institutes all over the world pool their resources, both human and material, to contribute to the development of their societies. In many instances, the networks and chairs serve as think tanks and bridge builders between academia, civil society, local communities, research and policy-making. 

To date, they have proven useful in informing policy decisions, establishing new teaching initiatives, generating innovation through research and contributing to the enrichment of existing university programs while promoting cultural diversity. In areas where expertise is lacking, chairs and networks have evolved into hubs of excellence and innovation at regional or sub-regional levels. They also contribute to strengthening North-South-South co-operation.

Learn More

Expertise profile of Professor Clara Santato
Website of the Department of Engineering physics
Website of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs program

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