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AI models aid in the hunt for electronic waste

In a new research project, the University of Gothenburg hopes that AI models and satellite image analysis can assist in the hunt for electronic waste, illegally dumped in developing countries. Semcon is participating in the project, providing expertise in data management, image analysis, and AI algorithms.


The demand for electronic and connected products is continuously increasing. At the same time, there is a lack of both methods to manage the waste and strategies for reuse. This has led to a crisis regarding health and environmentally hazardous electronic waste (e-waste) being dumped in developing countries.

"The purpose of this research project is to use new technology to examine how current legislation regarding this type of waste actually works in practice and to identify locations that appear to be used as illegal ‘dump sites,'" says Jessica Coria, senior researcher at Environment for Development (EfD) at the University of Gothenburg.

Can AI predict where illegal dumping may occur?

By using time-lapse satellite images, Jessica Coria hopes to evaluate whether international conventions, such as the Basel Convention's Ban Amendment that came into force in December 2019 and prohibits the export of electronic waste from OECD countries to countries without the capacity to handle e-waste, have led to a reduction in the occurrence of e-waste sites in developing countries. She also hopes to analyse whether international regulations have affected the spread of illegal e-waste dumping sites in developing countries.

“Semcon's role has so far been to gather the right data in the form of satellite images, analyse the images, and find which AI solutions could be applied in this case. The next step is to train an AI model that can predict where dumping sites might appear based on historical data,” says Axel Bender, AI/Machine Learning Expert at Semcon.

The first part of the project is completed, and now the analysis of the results remains. The data collection has been an educational process, showing both the challenges and the potential of using AI models to identify e-waste sites and quantify the amount of e-waste over time.

About e-waste
E-waste contains a critical group of chemicals, particularly heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury) and persistent organic pollutants (dioxins), which the WHO has recognized as a major public health issue. E-waste is also linked to a wide range of environmental impacts, spanning soil, air, and water pollution. At the same time, e-waste contains many valuable components that can be reclaimed for reuse in a circular economy.

Expertise in AI and Data Management
Semcon has been an early adopter of AI technology and has extensive knowledge of the latest research and developments in the field. We offer tailored end-to-end solutions to meet our customers' specific needs. Learn more about Semcon's offerings in data management and AI.

Circular Products are the Future
Products that are sustainable and can be repaired, upgraded, shared, reused, and recycled will become the new standard. This is especially true for electronic products. Semcon helps its customers explore how the transition to a circular economy with net-zero emissions impacts their products, services, and business models. Learn more about what Semcon offers in product development.

About the Research Project
The research project “Tracking the Effects of Environmental Regulation on E-Waste Dumping in Developing Nations through Satellite Imagery” started in December 2023 and aims to evaluate the effectiveness of policies to combat the dumping of electronic waste (e-waste) in developing countries. For more information about the project, contact Jessica Coria at


Kristina Ekeblad

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Johan Kristensson, Semcon

Johan Kristensson

Team Manager

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