Let's get it right for people, planet and profit

Introductory video

Find out why Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, thinks e-waste is the challenge of our century - and how, if we work together, we can turn this challenge into an opportunity to help mitigate climate change, create green jobs, and help countries kick-start a circular economy.

Signing up to the MOOC can be your first step!

What happens to your mobile phone, your refrigerator, your computer, or your old batteries once you’ve finished with them?

Every year we are throwing
away more and more. At current rates, an estimated 50 million metric tonnes (mt) of e-waste will be generated worldwide in 2018.

Why should we care?

Action we take today will have lasting impact for generations to come!

E-waste can be a threat to our planet:
Illegal and poorly managed e-waste is polluting our environment, harming human health, and contributing to human-made climate change. The worst impacts are often in the countries that are least equipped to manage it.

Or it can be a valuable resource:
By recycling materials contained in e-waste we can save on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from primary mining, we can create green jobs, and we can create economic opportunities. The intrinsic material value of global e-waste was estimated to be 48 billion euro in 2014. Let’s see it used again, not sent to landfills or dumped illegally.

We all have a part to play in the story of e-waste.
We need YOUR help to take action and meet this challenge.

Is the course for me?

Yes, everyone is welcome! The MOOC is a free course that is open to all; it is designed for anyone with an interest in taking action on managing our e-waste. You may be a recycler, a policy maker, a government official, a student, a teacher, a researcher, or an entrepreneur. Or just someone who cares about our planet!

Can I afford the time?

There’s flexibility in how long you can spend on the MOOC . Simply choose one of the pathways described below in the course details (Duration). For example: as a policy maker or as a recycler, you may not want to complete the full MOOC and only focus on particular parts; whereas students or people new to the subject may be ready to complete the full course.

The course materials have been developed in partnership between Climate-KIC and the following:

  • The United Nations Environment Programme Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP/BRS)
  • Our university partner, KU Leuven, in Belgium
  • The World Resources Forum, based in Switzerland.

The E-waste Challenge: Course details

Course content - What are these courses about?

With our growing appetite for electrical and electronic products, combined with rapid innovation and ever-shorter product lifespans, e-waste has now become one of the fastest growing waste streams.

This course will help you to understand why and how we must manage e-waste in an environmentally sound manner and how you can take action on e-waste in your own life, business, or organization.

The aims of the course are to:

  • Show how sound management of e-waste can help reduce GHG emissions and prevent hazards to health and the environment in accordance with the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions
  • Share best practices, technological innovations, and sustainable e-waste recovery and recycling business models.
  • Explore how the value in e-waste can be extracted in a way that supports the local economy and protects people’s health and the environment.


United Nations Environment Programme
basel convention
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
eit materials
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What’s a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course that brings together people across the world and gives them free access to quality online learning materials. The result? A great learning experience that puts you in the perfect place to take action!

What’s in the E-waste Challenge MOOC?

Online learning materials featuring audio, video, and links to a fantastic range of online resources for you to explore in any way you choose. Add to this a great range of activities and the ability to get into lively discussions with other learners. All our materials have been endorsed by international e-waste specialists and experts.

What’s different about this MOOC?

MOOCs are the current ‘big thing’. What’s different about ours? We are all about creating a learning community focused on action! At the heart of our MOOC is our E-waste Challenge – tackling the real-world threats and opportunities arising from the increasing quantities of discarded electrical and electronic products. We need your ideas, imagination, and energy. Let our learning resources give you what you need to join in and make a real change in the world.

What level is the learning aimed at?

No prior knowledge is assumed and we’ve tried to keep everything as clear and straightforward as possible - you can do as much or as little as you need to meet your own goals. Whether you are a recycler, a policy maker, a university student, or just someone who cares about e-waste, there will be something for you. If you want to explore the topics in greater depth, the MOOC offers links and suggestions for further study and exploration.

What’s in it for me?

We hope this MOOC will give you the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take action. Maybe you’ll have a BIG IDEA and start a new project or business, or maybe you’ll help to create tools and solutions for others. We hope you’ll become an active participant in our learning community and make your contribution felt. Whatever your goal, the MOOC has something for you.

Who has created this MOOC?

Climate-KIC is the EU’s largest public-private partnership addressing climate change through innovation to build a zero-carbon economy. We run programmes for students, start-ups, and innovators across Europe via centres in major cities, convening a community of the best people and organizations. Climate-KIC is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

The joint Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, (UNEP part) and Stockholm Conventions is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and is located in Geneva, Switzerland. The Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention is jointly served by UNEP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The FAO part of the Rotterdam Secretariat is based in Rome, Italy.

KU Leuven is a university located in Belgium. It is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university that carries out both fundamental and applied research. It is strongly inter- and multidisciplinary in focus and strives for international excellence. To this end, KU Leuven works together actively with its research partners at home and abroad.

World Resource Forum is an independent non-profit international organization that serves as a platform connecting and fostering knowledge exchange on resources management amongst business leaders, policy makers, NGOs, scientists, and the public. Our flagship international conference, the World Resources Forum, takes place once a year and attracts 500-1,000 business leaders, policy makers, NGOs, researchers, and the broader public.

EIT RawMaterials, initiated and funded by the European Commission, is the largest consortium in the raw materials sector worldwide. Its vision is to make the European Union raw materials independent. It unites more than 100 partners, collaborating on finding new, innovative solutions to improve the raw materials sector all along its value chain. EIT RawMaterials combines more than 700,000 employees and revenue in excess of EUR 200 billion.

What will I do?

We are all about action, so at the heart of our MOOC is the E-waste Challenge. There are activities spread across the whole MOOC which you - and the entire E-waste Challenge MOOC learning community - can take part in. The MOOC will help you shape and develop your ideas for an e-waste project, which you will share with others at the end of the course. The MOOC will track what you do, so you are always sure where you are and what to do next.

How do I complete the E-waste Challenge?

The MOOC has everything you need to complete the E-waste Challenge:

  • Quality learning resources (our ‘learning nuggets’) with the ‘must know’, practical information and activities you’ll need.
  • Access to like-minded learners who also want to make a difference.
  • Links to other useful resources and groups that can inspire and help you on your way.

How do I join the course?

To start on the E-waste Challenge all you need is to register with the site and to join the E-waste Challenge Group. This means you will be able to work through the MOOC at the same time as others in the E-waste Challenge learning community.

You are free to work through at your own pace at times that suit you. The course materials will remain open to you once you have registered.

Some participants may come to the course through their university. In this case, when you register, you will find you are enrolled into your university group.

When can I join the MOOC?

You can join the course at any time.

The E-waste Challenge MOOC will start in April 2016. We suggest you allow about eight weeks to work through the whole course but the timing is up to you, and the course will remain open to you once you are registered. There will be a second delivery of the MOOC later in the year. The next start date will be shown on the E-waste Challenge Information page when available.

If you don’t have time to complete the full course, you can choose a shorter pathway. We recommend you complete Modules 1 and 2, then choose the parts you wish to study from Modules 3, 4 and 5. There’s more information in the course details.

Can I participate in the MOOC as part of my university studies?

Some universities are delivering our MOOC as part of their ongoing curriculum. If you are a student with one of these universities, your tutor may ask for additional work to meet the university accreditation standards – or you may be asked to complete part of the course alongside your other studies. Either way, this is a great opportunity to join in conversations with people from all walks of life who are joining together in their concern over the future of our planet.

Will I get academic credits?

If you are following the MOOC within the context of a university course, your university will advise you on the credits you may receive. This may require additional assessment activities at the discretion of the university. The course has been designed at a level that is equivalent to at least one ECTS credit but the MOOC itself does not award credits.

Will I get a certificate?

When you complete and submit your assignment you will receive a Certificate of Completion. If you are studying the course with a university or another partner, it may make separate arrangements to recognize your effort, but this will be outside the MOOC platform.

Can I speak to a teacher?

The open course is not moderated by a teacher or facilitator. However, you will find that many of your peers are experts in their own fields, so do use the community to ask questions.

If you are enrolled into a group as part of a university programme, you may have your own teacher.

I’m an expert: Can I get involved?

Yes! You are welcome. We think the course has something for everyone. If you don’t want to follow the course but are interested in getting involved only in the discussions, your presence would be a great help to others who may have questions to ask.

I’m a teacher: How can I use the materials?

Your students can use the materials if they are registered on the platform. If you would like your own group area just for you and your students, that can be arranged. Please contact

English is not my first language. Is there a lot of reading?

No - unless you want to. Many of the activities allow you to read as much or as little as you want. It’s your choice! But it is always good to be able to read quickly to get the key information you need, or just an overall idea of what something is about. The techniques we use to do this are called skimming and scanning, and they are useful in any language. There are many resources online about this. Here are two:
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