Everywhere you turn at the moment there’s a new article on data protection, or an example of where it’s gone wrong. How does this relate to the circular economy? Does it create any opportunities?

Many of our followers already know that at QSA, we focus on the value that Circular Economy business models create for customers and suppliers. Data protection is certainly an area where good practice creates value!

The law is clear for companies that handle their clients’ and customers’ personal data. In many circular economy models (such as leasing and service) you’re already striving to create and maintain an excellent customer relationship, so you probably want to gather personal information about them but you must comply with the requirements of GDPR. This means you must minimise your data collection to that directly relevant to the service you’re providing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore how that information can help you improve your service to the customer.

The law is less clear about items that are discarded by users when they think they’re end-of-life. The regulator for privacy and personal data (the ICO – Information Commissioner’s Office) has stated that users are responsible for personal data they leave on items at waste and recycling centres. While this relieves local authorities and waste companies of any burden for data control, even better it creates a value opportunity for those outlets. By adding a data destruction service, they can provide more value to customers.

This can introduce complications, though. What if the device can’t be switched on or wiped? Should the collector offer a secure shredding service for devices? Wouldn’t that be considered pre-treatment of WEEE?

I think data protection, and greater consumer awareness about it, is going to help drive better thinking and practice on how services are used and end-of-life devices are managed. Finally, better stewardship of information can drive the better stewardship of physical products that many of us have wanted for so long.

In the meantime, we’re getting our GDPR compliance in order here at QSA using a small business GDPR platform called Astrid. We’ll post more about this soon.