A Recap of E-Scrap 2018

Posted by on October 31, 2018

It was 16 years ago when SRS representatives walked the halls of the Rosen Centre in Orlando for the very first E-Scrap Conference. With a few hundred attendees it was clear the e-waste industry was starting to see rapid growth in demand. Today this event has evolved to be one of the biggest annual conferences in the U.S. electronics recycling industry with approximately 1,300 attendees and a variety of e-waste and IT asset disposition (ITAD) topics and speakers.

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Brian Adams Photo / E-Scrap Conference

This year’s E-Scrap 2018 conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans on September 9-11. Among the crowd of industry alike, Sims Recycling Solutions (SRS) had a strong presence and was heavily involved in discussions regarding some of the biggest topics facing the industry today. Here is a summary of the highlighted topics.

Freight Costs

With low truck supply, expensive fuel costs and high freight demand, limited capacity in the global logistics market has made an impact on the electronics recycling and IT asset disposition industry in two major ways.

  1. Putting pressure on low-margin equipment – It is a struggle for end-of-life electronics recyclers to process certain low-value devices when freight costs are high and commodity values are low. This must be supplemented with high-margin equipment that can be sold for reuse. Especially if truck loads are not full and IT and electronic equipment is not of high value, service pricing must increase so the recycler can cover costs.
  2. Creating scheduling difficulties – With so much demand and a shortage of drivers, the industry is seeing problems with securing pickups for transporting equipment. Drivers are in high demand and new regulations are putting more restrictions on drivers to limit the consecutive hours driven by one person. Where before drivers tracked their hours manually on a sheet of paper, their hours and miles are now logged in electronically. The intention is to promote the safety of the driver but this has, in some cases, slowed down delivery times.

*Tip for IT Managers: An option for saving on freight costs is to consolidate loads, and find companies with a geographic footprint aligned with yours.

Commodity Prices

A steep drop in commodity values is putting pressure on commodities produced in an e-scrap shred line. If recyclers create a stream going to a smelter, smelters are in high demand and turnaround times may be longer than usual. Recyclers can no longer rely on commodity prices and are shifting to more service-oriented business models to sustain.

China’s National Sword Policy

China has been receiving about 55 percent of the world’s scrap recyclable paper, plastic and aluminum with requirements in place for materials to be at a certain percentage of purity. As a country, they decided they did not want to continue being a global trash dump, and created the “National Sword policy” which raised standards to improve the quality and purity of materials being received.

This was enacted on January 1, 2018 and has forced many to change their infrastructure. After this ban, Malaysia became the largest destination for U.S. scrap plastic exports in Asia until finally they stopped allowing these imports temporarily until they get their regulations under control.

These significant industry changes will require more processing of equipment including more manual sorting and battery removal to improve the quality of materials. Many recyclers in the industry are investing in sorting equipment or researching where they can send their material to somebody who can sort and separate materials for them.

Data Security

It came as no surprise that many discussions at the conference brought up concerns about data security. Many large businesses are deciding if they feel it is reasonable to develop a small-scale electronics recycling line in-house, or if it makes better sense to outsource these services. When outsourcing it is important to understand key attributes of a strong ITAD vendor before making your selection.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

If you have not heard the news stories, over the past couple of years lithium-ion batteries have been the cause of several fire risks within various electronics devices including hover boards, e-cigarettes, smartphones and most recently an Xbox console that caught fire in a recycling truck.

These batteries are no doubt a risk when in use but are even more dangerous when discarded. In fact they are the number one source of fires at waste facilities and are one of the main causes for rising processing costs.

“Consumers want smaller products with longer battery life and lithium-ion batteries can offer that,” stated Larry King, OEM compliance director for Sims Recycling Solutions. “The issue is ensuring safe processing when these batteries are received for recycling, as the probability of a thermal event is much higher in comparison to other materials.”

While the problem is clear, the heavy weight falls on the shoulders of electronics recyclers and IT asset disposition companies. One of the conference sessions therefore focused on best practices for safe storage and handling, and Converge Engineering introduced their latest thermal monitoring system (TMS) designed to help waste companies control fire risks.

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Recycling

CRT recycling issues remain prominent as capacity is not there to fulfill demand. There are still options for responsible disposal but they are costly and limited. This will continue to be an ongoing issue as we see CRT manufacturers evolve.

While we have seen years of development in this industry, we have a long way to go before some of these major issues are resolved.

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