When a lithium-ion battery fire breaks out at a recycling facility, emotional centers in the brain often cause employees to grab fire extinguishers filled with fire-extinguishing chemicals, but what they really need is c is water.
That’s why training programs should give staff a full understanding of the chemical reactions involved, said Bo Bodo, director of learning and development at battery recycling company Li-Cycle.
“Give them the why behind the what and your training programs will be much more effective,” he said.
He was one of dozens of speakers at the 2022 E-Scrap Conferencewhich attracted more than 1,000 electronics recycling and reuse professionals in New Orleans last week. Discussions covered not only the intricacies of electronics recycling and reuse companies, but a host of other topics of interest to the wider recycling world, including battery safety, responsibility programs of producers, national investments in recycling capacity, international trade regulations and more.
Markets and ESG explored
In addition to lively fire safety discussions at a workshop hosted by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the event explored investments in national metal recycling capacity, which in some ways corresponds to what the world of selective recycling sees in terms of national investments. in OCC and paper recycling capacity.
Currently, most electronic scrap materials containing precious metals are exported for recycling in Asian or European smelters, but companies plan to bring more secondary smelting capacity to US shores. Representatives of companies planning projects in Georgia spoke at the event about the market drivers they see, including the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Similar to the push for more recycled content in packaging, electronics companies are working to increase recycled content in their products.
Jeff Gloyd, president of electronics recycling company evTerra, noted that brand owners want to use recycled content in their products to meet their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, but “it comes down to the conversation. financially or things are not going well”. happen.” If an OEM puts 40% recycled resin in a printer, for example, it’s because the company has conducted a study that shows it will sell more printers as a result, he said. declared.
Therefore, the recycling industry must develop accessible and cost-effective solutions to supply this recycled material, he said. Chris Kaasmann, vice president of compliance at electronics recycling company GreenChip, noted that “there are many different ways to track sustainability, so it’s extremely important to listen to what they want and integrate them into tools that are accessible to them”.
EPR programs adapting to change
Minimizing waste, the first of the three ‘Rs’, is naturally a key part of the electronics recycling industry, as repaired/refurbished electronics are more valuable than commodity products.
During a workshop titled “What does Right to Repair mean for recyclers,” Ryan Laber, vice president of business development at electronics processor Cascade Asset Management, predicted that the circular economy will continue to be a growing priority. for industry.
“There’s money to be made,” Laber said. “There is a lot of equipment that can be repaired.”
Used electronics can also help bridge the digital divide in the United States and abroad.
During a workshop outlining the details of the R2 standard for electronics reuse and recycling, Patty McKenzie, Outreach Director at Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), noted that the certification “supports a circular economy, but more than that, it enriches lives and livelihoods because it provides affordable products to people in need.
Other sessions focused on state Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs, which have only just come online in the United States for printed paper and packaging, but have been around for many years for electronics.
Still, a changing end-of-life stream for electronics, especially fewer bulky CRT TVs, means states are looking to overhaul their years-old EPR programs.
Patrick Santelli, senior compliance program manager for management company Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Co. (MRM), noted that the decreasing weight of CRTs makes it more difficult for OEMs to meet weight targets. The trend also means increased costs for OEMs without a corresponding increase in recycling rates.
He and others also discussed changes to state programs to ensure consumers in urban and rural areas have access to e-waste drop-off opportunities. For example, convenience standards have been implemented in Illinois and South Carolina instead of weight-based goals. Through the convenience standards approach, the state mandates a number of e-waste drop-off locations and collection events in different areas based on municipal jurisdictions and populations. This way, brand owners cannot achieve their goals solely by funding e-waste recycling in urban areas, leaving rural RDD programs struggling to find cost-effective recycling solutions for their residents.
“I think as the weight starts to become more scarce, I think there’s likely to be more adoption of convenience standards,” Santelli said.
A version of this story appeared in E-Scrap News on September 19.