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Skurnac: e-scrap recyclers must target diversification

Austria – In order to survive, electronics recyclers will need to diversify increasingly in new business areas such as refurbishment, according to Steve Skurnac, global president of Sims Recycling Solutions. Speaking at last week’s International Electronics Recycling Congress in Salzburg, he argued that relying solely on ‘old models’ of recycling would be a dead-end street.

Manufacturers need ‘suitable partners’ in order to meet their recycling and sustainability targets, Skurnac stated. In turn, recycling companies could provide valuable services in terms of product design, collection and recycling initiatives. ‘Recyclers can help to develop new markets for recycling products,’ he said. ‘They have the necessary materials and required markets.’

Especially in Europe, Sims has seen rapid growth in its refurbishment services, confirmed Skurnac. Increasingly, e-scrap facilities have been – and continue to be – transformed to suit new business models.

The traditional role of the electronics recycling business was also questioned by Dr Markus Laubscher, program manager Circular Economy at Philips. ‘The transition towards the value-added chains is already taking place,’ he said. ‘Recyclers therefore need to decide which role they intend to play in it.’

The Salzburg conference, attended by more than 500 industry professionals, underlined once again that the electronics recycling industry is continuing to struggle in the face of tough market conditions. Owing to the steep fall in commodity prices, a rapidly-growing number of electronics recyclers are no longer running profitable businesses and some have been forced to shut down plants, most notably in Europe.

Furthermore, electronic devices are becoming ever smaller and are incorporating a reduced valuable metal content. According to Thierry van Kerckhoven, global sales manager at recycling major Umicore, this trend raised the question of whether conventional shredding and post-shredding treatment processes would be able to cope with the recycling challenges of the future.

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