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Category: Top stories

Sims resells more devices, driving higher profits

Published: February 21, 2024
Updated:

by

Sims Lifecycle Services repurposed 2.5 million devices during the 2024 fiscal half-year, up 39% from the half-year prior. | Rattanapong/Shutterstock

Global ITAD firm Sims Lifecycle Services repurposed 700,000 more devices in the first half of its 2024 fiscal year compared with the prior-year period, representing the third year in a row of significant growth in device volume. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Canadian rare earth magnet recyclers awarded grants

Published: February 21, 2024
Updated:

by

Geomega Resources and NeoCtech will both receive funding through NGen’s Global Innovation Cluster grant program | Zerbor/Shutterstock

Canadian industry-led nonprofit NGen awarded 86.7 million Canadian dollars ($64.2 million US dollars) in grants for 15 advanced manufacturing projects in Canada, including two rare-earth magnet recyclers.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Report: Device trade-ins bring record-high value

Published: February 21, 2024
Updated:

by
mobile phones

Consumers received back billions of dollars of value from their mobile device trade-ins in 2023, a report found. | Maxx Studio/Shutterstock

The value returned to consumers for their used mobile device trade-ins hit a record high $4.3 billion in 2023, thanks to strong demand for new devices, a bump in the worth of old smartphones and other factors. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged , |

Repair groups call on regulators to draft rules

Published: December 13, 2023
Updated:

by
Exterior of the FTC building in Washington, D.C.

Multiple groups are calling for the Federal Trade Commission to set a national right-to-repair standard. | Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

Advocates for electronics repair last month delivered a petition asking the Federal Trade Commission to craft rules to prohibit manufacturers from restricting repair of their products. Continue Reading

EPA to launch battery recycling work sessions in March

Published: February 15, 2024
Updated:

by
Lithium batteries on white background.

The EPA is convening battery recycling stakeholders of all kinds in work sessions that will begin in March, exploring such topics as battery labeling and collection best practices. | ShowcakeShutterstock

Battery manufacturers, nonprofits, local governments and others can share their experiences with and insights into battery recycling with the U.S. EPA during work sessions that are set to begin in March. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Sims rolls out robotic disassembly system

Published: February 15, 2024
Updated:

by

MOLG’s robotic disassembly equipment adds automation to Sims Lifecycle Services’ data center decommissioning segment. | Photo courtesy MOLG

Looking to automate its demanufacturing process, Sims Lifecycle Services has installed robotic disassembly equipment at its data center decommissioning operations.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Washington device collection weight reaches new low

Published: February 15, 2024
Updated:

by
Stacked devices for recycling.

E-Cycle Washington handled 12.9 million pounds of electronics in 2023, down about 3% from the previous year. | Aquatarkus/Shutterstock

The weight of devices collected in Washington state’s e-scrap program dropped again in 2023, reaching a new low in the program’s 15th year as the portion of lighter-weight devices in the stream continues to grow. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Robotics supplier rebrands with broader company focus

Published: February 8, 2024
Updated:

by

An AMP One fully automated AI sorting system operating at the company’s Cleveland, Ohio secondary sortation facility. | Courtesy of AMP

After 10 years helping the e-scrap and municipal recycling industries retrofit with innovative robotics equipment, AMP Robotics has dropped the latter part of its name, reflecting an emerging focus on building recycling centers from scratch with AI-equipped sorting systems.

Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories |

Right-to-repair disputes crystallize in FTC comments

Published: February 8, 2024
Updated:

by

The Federal Trade Commission received more than 1,000 comments supporting or opposing a recent petition calling for federal right-to-repair rules. | Yekatseryna Netuk/Shutterstock

Whether they were small repair business owners, industry associations or passionate individuals, hundreds of commenters on a recent right-to-repair petition to the Federal Trade Commission broadly agreed that consumers ought to have more options for fixing their devices and using them longer.  Continue Reading

In Our Opinion: Industry must commit to Basel e-plastics compliance

Published: February 1, 2024
Updated:

by
Cargo container ship at port.

Two leaders in the e-scrap certification sphere say new Basel rules on e-plastics present both challenges and opportunities. | Peresanz/Shutterstock

We may have started from different perspectives, and we may have different points of emphasis, but the e-Stewards and R2 standards have each played a highly significant role in improving the sustainability of electronics in the last few decades. It is certain that certification programs now serve to differentiate the good actors – the leaders who follow applicable laws, protect the earth, workers and communities – from the laggards, who do not.

As critical baselines, both the R2 and e-Stewards standards require the environmentally sound management (ESM) of electronic scrap or retired assets and legal compliance throughout the recycling chain. Assessing legal compliance can be complicated – particularly when international and national laws are considered, and given that there are varying definitions of materials and wastes. But regardless of the complexity, the requirement to assure legal compliance and ESM is a non-negotiable aspect of any respected standard, including R2 and e-Stewards.

Which brings us to the current hot topic of e-plastics, the Basel Convention, and the discovery of potential wide scale non-compliance with the new Basel plastics amendments.

In January 2021, amendments to the Basel Convention went into effect to begin controlling trade in mixed and contaminated plastic wastes (Annex II, Y48) for the first time. For most countries, this means trade in such materials would be subject to government notification and the receiving country’s consent prior to exportation. It also means any such trade can only take place if the recycling operations involved were deemed by the authorities of both countries to be environmentally sound.

But there’s a key caveat for U.S. stakeholders: The Basel Convention also requires that such trade only take place between countries that have ratified the Basel Convention, unless a special separate side agreement akin to Basel is instituted. The U.S. remains one of the few countries that has not ratified Basel, and only one such special agreement exists for Y48 plastic for the U.S. (an arrangement signed with Canada in 2020). This means that all the other 189 Basel Convention Parties, and in particular non-OECD countries, are highly likely to be legally off-limits to imports of Y48 plastic from the U.S.

The new global trade rules have also placed a spotlight on the Basel-party countries where much of the e-plastic had been flowing from the U.S. – such as Malaysia – with concerns that these countries are turning a blind eye to their own legal obligation to refuse such wastes from the U.S. and that their recycling facilities may not always be maintaining environmentally sound operations for all fractions of the mixed plastics.

What has changed is international law, not our recycling standards, their certification programs nor the good will of good recyclers. Similar Basel amendments controlling non-hazardous e-waste will enter into force on January 1, 2025. It is anticipated that this change will further isolate American recyclers if the U.S. remains a Basel non-Party at that time. It is clear we need to move towards more comprehensive solutions to facilitate proper legal and ESM recycling globally. And it is clear we need to be better prepared for what is coming.

Changes in international law present both pain and possibility

Without the expansion of plastics processing capacity and technology in the U.S., new bi-lateral agreements or the U.S. ratifying the Basel Convention, compliance with Basel rules will likely cause cascading unintended consequences.

Many plastics may be forced to go to disposal instead of recycling, at least in the short-term. With a drop in plastics recycling revenue, the costs of recycling plastics will increase, meaning the total cost of recycling electronic waste will increase. Thus, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs will need to pay recyclers more and manufacturers will likely need to collect more electronics to meet their recycling obligations in various states. Voluntary takeback programs may collapse entirely due to the economics no longer making sense. The bottom line is that the fewer plastics we can safely recycle, the further away we move from circularity and a more sustainable future.

But this situation also creates opportunities: The opportunity to work with OEMs to reassess the life-cycle advantages and disadvantages of plastics versus  metals; the opportunity to increase the quality of recycled plastics and develop the technology to clean and separate plastics closer to home; and an opportunity to enhance and align recycled content sourcing for various domestic industries with the e-plastics supply from the U.S. recycling industry.

Right now, BAN and SERI are both working on the immediate task of helping our facilities comply with the Basel plastic amendments and get ready for the forthcoming e-waste amendments to the Basel Convention coming in 2025 to ensure that all e-recycling is always conducted in a legal and environmentally sound manner, wherever it takes place globally.  Here are some of the highlights: 

  • BAN released a Guide to Plastic Waste Export Compliance for US Electronics Recyclers (a work in progress).
  • SERI has commissioned a report on the recycling of plastics in the R2 network. 
  • BAN is conducting research on the ESM of facilities around the world.
  • SERI will be publishing guidance for integrating the Basel amendments into the R2 management system and legal compliance, and guidance to perform legal compliance audits to the changes. 
  • BAN and SERI will be educating Certification Body (CB) auditors on how to audit each standard with the Basel amendments and take appropriate steps to write and close nonconformities.
  • BAN will be proposing an alteration of its Standard to align better with the Basel Convention on designating Y48 and Y49 (the upcoming e-waste listing) as being considered as Problematic, Components and Materials (PCMs) rather than Hazardous Waste.
  • Both BAN and SERI will be hosting and co-hosting webinars, training, and conference sessions on the topic. 
  • SERI has assembled a plastics workgroup from the R2 TAC and other plastics experts and will continue to facilitate that workgroup and pursue global solutions to recycle more plastics.
  • BAN has engaged its Leadership Council to provide rapid advice on the e-Plastics Challenge.

Both e-Stewards and R2 certification programs are committed to legal compliance and environmentally sound management of electronic assets. As part of that commitment, we will be enforcing legal compliance with the Basel Convention and its new amendments as a core tenet of our certifications.

More broadly we will continue to work together and with all stakeholders in government, manufacturers, enterprises, customers and consumers on the journey towards a more sustainable and circular future.

When challenges to our commitments, like this one, present themselves , we must all work collectively to meet those challenges – not to discard our commitments. Together, we aim to build a more ethical, circular, and sustainable future for generations to come.

Corey Dehmey is the Executive Director of Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), which administers the R2 certification standard.

Jim Puckett is the Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), which administers the e-Stewards certification standard.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a subject you wish to cover in an op-ed, please send a short proposal to [email protected] for consideration.

More stories about e-plastics

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Canadian rare earth magnet recyclers awarded grants

Published: February 21, 2024
Updated:

by

Geomega Resources and NeoCtech will both receive funding through NGen’s Global Innovation Cluster grant program | Zerbor/Shutterstock

Canadian industry-led nonprofit NGen awarded 86.7 million Canadian dollars ($64.2 million US dollars) in grants for 15 advanced manufacturing projects in Canada, including two rare-earth magnet recyclers.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Report: Device trade-ins bring record-high value

Published: February 21, 2024
Updated:

by
mobile phones

Consumers received back billions of dollars of value from their mobile device trade-ins in 2023, a report found. | Maxx Studio/Shutterstock

The value returned to consumers for their used mobile device trade-ins hit a record high $4.3 billion in 2023, thanks to strong demand for new devices, a bump in the worth of old smartphones and other factors. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged , |

Sims resells more devices, driving higher profits

Published: February 21, 2024
Updated:

by

Sims Lifecycle Services repurposed 2.5 million devices during the 2024 fiscal half-year, up 39% from the half-year prior. | Rattanapong/Shutterstock

Global ITAD firm Sims Lifecycle Services repurposed 700,000 more devices in the first half of its 2024 fiscal year compared with the prior-year period, representing the third year in a row of significant growth in device volume. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

EPA to launch battery recycling work sessions in March

Published: February 15, 2024
Updated:

by
Lithium batteries on white background.

The EPA is convening battery recycling stakeholders of all kinds in work sessions that will begin in March, exploring such topics as battery labeling and collection best practices. | ShowcakeShutterstock

Battery manufacturers, nonprofits, local governments and others can share their experiences with and insights into battery recycling with the U.S. EPA during work sessions that are set to begin in March. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Sims rolls out robotic disassembly system

Published: February 15, 2024
Updated:

by

MOLG’s robotic disassembly equipment adds automation to Sims Lifecycle Services’ data center decommissioning segment. | Photo courtesy MOLG

Looking to automate its demanufacturing process, Sims Lifecycle Services has installed robotic disassembly equipment at its data center decommissioning operations.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Washington device collection weight reaches new low

Published: February 15, 2024
Updated:

by
Stacked devices for recycling.

E-Cycle Washington handled 12.9 million pounds of electronics in 2023, down about 3% from the previous year. | Aquatarkus/Shutterstock

The weight of devices collected in Washington state’s e-scrap program dropped again in 2023, reaching a new low in the program’s 15th year as the portion of lighter-weight devices in the stream continues to grow. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

Robotics supplier rebrands with broader company focus

Published: February 8, 2024
Updated:

by

An AMP One fully automated AI sorting system operating at the company’s Cleveland, Ohio secondary sortation facility. | Courtesy of AMP

After 10 years helping the e-scrap and municipal recycling industries retrofit with innovative robotics equipment, AMP Robotics has dropped the latter part of its name, reflecting an emerging focus on building recycling centers from scratch with AI-equipped sorting systems.

Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories |

Right-to-repair disputes crystallize in FTC comments

Published: February 8, 2024
Updated:

by

The Federal Trade Commission received more than 1,000 comments supporting or opposing a recent petition calling for federal right-to-repair rules. | Yekatseryna Netuk/Shutterstock

Whether they were small repair business owners, industry associations or passionate individuals, hundreds of commenters on a recent right-to-repair petition to the Federal Trade Commission broadly agreed that consumers ought to have more options for fixing their devices and using them longer.  Continue Reading

Cascade survey: Used laptop market beginning to rebound

Published: February 1, 2024
Updated:

by
Laptops gathered for repair or recycling.

COVID-19 market changes created a turbulent few years for the used laptop market, but recent signs are pointing to a rebound. | ThamKC/Shutterstock

A well-known annual IT industry survey conducted by ITAD firm Cascade Asset Management found the device resale market crash that emerged in 2022 has begun to change course. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged |

In Our Opinion: Industry must commit to Basel e-plastics compliance

Published: February 1, 2024
Updated:

by
Cargo container ship at port.

Two leaders in the e-scrap certification sphere say new Basel rules on e-plastics present both challenges and opportunities. | Peresanz/Shutterstock

We may have started from different perspectives, and we may have different points of emphasis, but the e-Stewards and R2 standards have each played a highly significant role in improving the sustainability of electronics in the last few decades. It is certain that certification programs now serve to differentiate the good actors – the leaders who follow applicable laws, protect the earth, workers and communities – from the laggards, who do not.

As critical baselines, both the R2 and e-Stewards standards require the environmentally sound management (ESM) of electronic scrap or retired assets and legal compliance throughout the recycling chain. Assessing legal compliance can be complicated – particularly when international and national laws are considered, and given that there are varying definitions of materials and wastes. But regardless of the complexity, the requirement to assure legal compliance and ESM is a non-negotiable aspect of any respected standard, including R2 and e-Stewards.

Which brings us to the current hot topic of e-plastics, the Basel Convention, and the discovery of potential wide scale non-compliance with the new Basel plastics amendments.

In January 2021, amendments to the Basel Convention went into effect to begin controlling trade in mixed and contaminated plastic wastes (Annex II, Y48) for the first time. For most countries, this means trade in such materials would be subject to government notification and the receiving country’s consent prior to exportation. It also means any such trade can only take place if the recycling operations involved were deemed by the authorities of both countries to be environmentally sound.

But there’s a key caveat for U.S. stakeholders: The Basel Convention also requires that such trade only take place between countries that have ratified the Basel Convention, unless a special separate side agreement akin to Basel is instituted. The U.S. remains one of the few countries that has not ratified Basel, and only one such special agreement exists for Y48 plastic for the U.S. (an arrangement signed with Canada in 2020). This means that all the other 189 Basel Convention Parties, and in particular non-OECD countries, are highly likely to be legally off-limits to imports of Y48 plastic from the U.S.

The new global trade rules have also placed a spotlight on the Basel-party countries where much of the e-plastic had been flowing from the U.S. – such as Malaysia – with concerns that these countries are turning a blind eye to their own legal obligation to refuse such wastes from the U.S. and that their recycling facilities may not always be maintaining environmentally sound operations for all fractions of the mixed plastics.

What has changed is international law, not our recycling standards, their certification programs nor the good will of good recyclers. Similar Basel amendments controlling non-hazardous e-waste will enter into force on January 1, 2025. It is anticipated that this change will further isolate American recyclers if the U.S. remains a Basel non-Party at that time. It is clear we need to move towards more comprehensive solutions to facilitate proper legal and ESM recycling globally. And it is clear we need to be better prepared for what is coming.

Changes in international law present both pain and possibility

Without the expansion of plastics processing capacity and technology in the U.S., new bi-lateral agreements or the U.S. ratifying the Basel Convention, compliance with Basel rules will likely cause cascading unintended consequences.

Many plastics may be forced to go to disposal instead of recycling, at least in the short-term. With a drop in plastics recycling revenue, the costs of recycling plastics will increase, meaning the total cost of recycling electronic waste will increase. Thus, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs will need to pay recyclers more and manufacturers will likely need to collect more electronics to meet their recycling obligations in various states. Voluntary takeback programs may collapse entirely due to the economics no longer making sense. The bottom line is that the fewer plastics we can safely recycle, the further away we move from circularity and a more sustainable future.

But this situation also creates opportunities: The opportunity to work with OEMs to reassess the life-cycle advantages and disadvantages of plastics versus  metals; the opportunity to increase the quality of recycled plastics and develop the technology to clean and separate plastics closer to home; and an opportunity to enhance and align recycled content sourcing for various domestic industries with the e-plastics supply from the U.S. recycling industry.

Right now, BAN and SERI are both working on the immediate task of helping our facilities comply with the Basel plastic amendments and get ready for the forthcoming e-waste amendments to the Basel Convention coming in 2025 to ensure that all e-recycling is always conducted in a legal and environmentally sound manner, wherever it takes place globally.  Here are some of the highlights: 

  • BAN released a Guide to Plastic Waste Export Compliance for US Electronics Recyclers (a work in progress).
  • SERI has commissioned a report on the recycling of plastics in the R2 network. 
  • BAN is conducting research on the ESM of facilities around the world.
  • SERI will be publishing guidance for integrating the Basel amendments into the R2 management system and legal compliance, and guidance to perform legal compliance audits to the changes. 
  • BAN and SERI will be educating Certification Body (CB) auditors on how to audit each standard with the Basel amendments and take appropriate steps to write and close nonconformities.
  • BAN will be proposing an alteration of its Standard to align better with the Basel Convention on designating Y48 and Y49 (the upcoming e-waste listing) as being considered as Problematic, Components and Materials (PCMs) rather than Hazardous Waste.
  • Both BAN and SERI will be hosting and co-hosting webinars, training, and conference sessions on the topic. 
  • SERI has assembled a plastics workgroup from the R2 TAC and other plastics experts and will continue to facilitate that workgroup and pursue global solutions to recycle more plastics.
  • BAN has engaged its Leadership Council to provide rapid advice on the e-Plastics Challenge.

Both e-Stewards and R2 certification programs are committed to legal compliance and environmentally sound management of electronic assets. As part of that commitment, we will be enforcing legal compliance with the Basel Convention and its new amendments as a core tenet of our certifications.

More broadly we will continue to work together and with all stakeholders in government, manufacturers, enterprises, customers and consumers on the journey towards a more sustainable and circular future.

When challenges to our commitments, like this one, present themselves , we must all work collectively to meet those challenges – not to discard our commitments. Together, we aim to build a more ethical, circular, and sustainable future for generations to come.

Corey Dehmey is the Executive Director of Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), which administers the R2 certification standard.

Jim Puckett is the Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), which administers the e-Stewards certification standard.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a subject you wish to cover in an op-ed, please send a short proposal to [email protected] for consideration.

More stories about e-plastics