E-waste sector facing new challenges
The electrical and electronic waste recycling sector is currently having to deal with a difficult market environment, a fact again made abundantly clear at this year's International Electronics Recycling Congress in Salzburg. About 500 representatives from the industry joined the congress.
The situation is anything but straightforward. Not only because considerable amounts of e-waste continue to be exported illegally, but also because the devices currently being placed on the market, which will later become e-waste, are becoming increasingly smaller. In many cases this results in the devices containing less and less precious metals and other valuable metals. The situation is exacerbated by the stepp drop in commodities prices, which has alcso caused metal prices to decline.
This has resulted in lower earnings, which is causing major problems for many recycling enterprises, and some have already had to shut down plants, particularly in Europe and North America, reported Thierry Van Kerckhoven, Global Sales Manager at Umicore. A great many market players have meanwhile realised that the e-waste sector is not an "eternally booming Eldorado". Hence legislative framework conditions designed to promote recycling, such as the new circular economy package that the EU Commission recently made public, are now more important than ever.
The increasing level of miniaturisation poses the question of whether conventional treatment processes such as the currently used shredding and post-shredding technologies will still be adequate to cope with the recycling challenges of the futurue, said Van Kerckhoven. Furthermore, some industry representatives are questioning the necessity of the traditional role of recycling businesses. "The transition towards the value-added chains of the circular economy will occur. Recyclers therefore need to decide which role they intend to play in it", said Dr. Markus Laubscher, rogram Manager Circular Economy at Royal Philips. "The focus on processing ever greater volumes of waste will not be sufficient to create additional added value."
Steve Skurnac also agrees. The Global President of Sims Recycling Solutions states: "Commodities prices will continue to be under pressure in the foreseeable future. Recycling companies that provide additional services and work together with manufacturers will be able to provide valuable services within the overall supply chain."
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