A Value Proposition Analysis of Emerging Circular Economy Business Models in the WEEE Sector


  • Tirufat Dejene Woldeyes University of Padova
  • Moreno Muffatto
  • Francesco Ferrati




circular economy, business models, waste electrical and electronic equipment, e-waste


Due to the rapid economic growth, growing demand for high-tech products, and decreasing service life of products, global waste generation from the electrical and electronic equipment sector is increasing. From the environmental and economic perspective, the circular economy (CE) emphasizes e-waste prevention as it is one of the fastest-growing waste streams having both valuable and rare materials as well as toxic substances. It is common to manage electrical products at their end-of-life through circular practices however, knowledge and implementation of CE in the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) sector still need to be improved. End-of-life practices center on recycling, and the percentage of valuable resources recovered is low. There is a missing insight into the business opportunities for alternative end-of-life options such as reusing, repairing, and re-manufacturing that hold stakeholders from implementing circular strategies. To fill the gaps identified, we developed a research question for investigating and analyzing the services offered and the electrical products adaptable to CE business models (CEBMs) of young companies operating in the WEEE. This study aims to explore the business models (BMs) of circular practice-based business options such as buyers and sellers of used and refurbished electronic devices, information technology asset dispositions (ITADs) companies, and e-waste recyclers to enhance other researchers with a better understanding of business options toward end-of-life e-waste handling and emerging issues in this industry. We conduct a literature review on CEBMs in the WEEE and conduct a multiple-case analysis of 412 emerging circular companies in the WEEE selected from the Crunchbase database to explore their BMs. Key findings show that most young WEEE companies focus on IT and telecom equipment and consumer electronics. Emerging WEEE companies mostly involve asset management and e-waste Recycling service, followed by ITAD services, trade-in/buyback, and reselling of preowned and refurbished electrical devices service, and e-waste collection, recycling, and disposal service. These companies provide unique offerings such as information security, compliance, trustworthiness, convenience, quality, social responsibility, and charitable purpose. Studies in the future may explore other dimensions of these BMs to gain a comprehensive picture and support the design of CEBMs.