• Lambertsen Cooley posted an update 8 months ago


    Electronics recycling in the U.S. is increasing as the sector consolidates and matures. The potential of electronics recycling – at minimum in the U.S., and probably globally – will be driven by electronics technological innovation, precious metals, and sector framework, in particular. Even though there are other items that can affect the sector – this kind of as client electronics collections, legislation and laws and export problems – I feel that these three factors will have a a lot more profound affect on the potential of electronics recycling.

    The most latest information on the business – from a survey conducted by the Worldwide Information Company (IDC) and sponsored by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) – identified that the business (in 2010) handled approximately 3.five million tons of electronics with revenues of $five billion and straight utilized 30,000 individuals – and that it has been growing at about twenty% each year for the past 10 years. But will this growth continue?

    Electronics Engineering

    Personal laptop gear has dominated volumes dealt with by the electronics recycling sector. The IDC examine documented that in excess of sixty% by weight of business input volumes was "laptop equipment" (such as PCs and monitors). But modern reports by IDC and Gartner show that shipments of desktop and notebook pcs have declined by much more than 10% and that the shipments of smartphones and tablets now every single exceed that of PCs. About 1 billion wise phones will be delivered in 2013 – and for the initial time exceed the volumes of typical cell telephones. And shipments of extremely-mild laptops and laptop computer-tablet hybrids are escalating rapidly. So, we are coming into the "Publish-Pc Era".

    In addition, CRT TVs and monitors have been a significant portion of the input volumes (by weight) in the recycling stream – up to 75% of the "client electronics" stream. And the demise of the CRT implies that much less CRT TVs and screens will be coming into the recycling stream – replaced by scaled-down/lighter flat screens.

    So, what do these technology tendencies indicate to the electronics recycling sector? Do these advances in technology, which direct to dimension reduction, outcome in a "smaller sized components footprint" and less complete quantity (by fat)? Considering that cell products (e.g., intelligent phones, tablets) presently represent larger volumes than PCs – and most likely switch over faster – they will almost certainly dominate the long term volumes moving into the recycling stream. And they are not only much smaller sized, but generally expense less than PCs. And, traditional laptops are currently being changed by ultra-books as effectively as tablets – which means that the laptop computer equivalent is a great deal more compact and weighs less.

    So, even with continuously growing portions of electronics, the fat volume moving into the recycling stream could get started reducing. Typical desktop computer processors weigh 15-20 lbs. Traditional laptop computer computer systems weigh five-7 lbs. But the new "ultra-textbooks" weigh 3-four lbs. So, if "personal computers" (including monitors) have comprised about 60% of the whole market enter quantity by excess weight and TVs have comprised a huge part of the volume of "customer electronics" (about 15% of the industry input quantity) – then up to 75% of the input volume might be subject matter to the fat reduction of new systems – maybe as a lot as a 50% reduction. And, related technological innovation adjust and measurement reduction is occurring in other markets – e.g., telecommunications, industrial, healthcare, etc.

    However, the inherent price of these devices could be greater than PCs and CRTs (for resale as effectively as scrap – per device weight). So, sector fat volumes may possibly reduce, but revenues could proceed to improve (with resale, materials restoration worth and solutions). And, given that cell units are envisioned to flip above more quickly than PCs (which have generally turned over in three-5 years), these changes in the electronics recycling stream might happen inside 5 several years or less.

    Yet another issue for the industry to take into account, as just lately noted by E-Scrap News – "The general portability trend in computing products, including standard type-elements, is characterized by built-in batteries, parts and non-repairable parts. With fix and refurbishment ever more tough for these sorts of units, e-scrap processors will face significant issues in figuring out the best way to handle these gadgets responsibly, as they slowly compose an escalating share of the stop-of-existence management stream." So, does that indicate that the resale prospective for these smaller gadgets may be significantly less?

    The electronics recycling business has historically concentrated on PCs and consumer electronics, but what about infrastructure tools? – this sort of as servers/data facilities/cloud computing, telecom techniques, cable network techniques, satellite/navigation methods, protection/navy methods. These sectors usually use bigger, larger worth products and have significant (and growing?) volumes. They are not typically noticeable or considered of when contemplating the electronics recycling market, but could be an increasingly important and larger share of the volumes that it handles. And some, if not much, of this infrastructure is thanks to adjust in technologies – which will outcome in a huge quantity turnover of equipment. reports that "… as the industry overhauls and replaces… servers, storage and networking equipment to accommodate huge consolidation and virtualization tasks and put together for the age of cloud computing… the create-out of cloud computing, the inventory of physical IT belongings will shift from the consumer to the information center… While the variety of buyer products is increasing, they are also getting smaller sized in size. Meanwhile, data facilities are becoming upgraded and expanded, possibly producing a big amount of potential e-waste."

    But, exterior the U.S. – and in developing nations around the world in particular – the enter quantity fat to the electronics recycling stream will boost substantially – as the usage of electronic devices spreads to a broader marketplace and an infrastructure for recycling is produced. In addition, establishing nations will proceed to be attractive markets for the resale of utilized electronics.

    Treasured Metals

    In the IDC research, in excess of 75% by bodyweight of market output volumes was discovered to be "commodity grade scrap". And more than 50 percent of that was "metals". Precious metals signify a modest portion of the quantity – the average concentration of valuable metals in electronics scrap is measured in grams for each ton. But their recovery worth is a substantial part of the overall worth of commodity quality scrap from electronics.

    Precious metals prices have increased substantially in recent years. The market place charges for gold, silver, palladium and platinum have each and every much more than doubled above the previous five years. However, gold and silver have historically been very volatile since their costs are pushed mostly by buyers. Their costs seem to have peaked – and are now drastically below their high points last yr. Whereas, platinum and palladium costs have typically been pushed by demand (e.g., production – like electronics and automotive programs) and normally far more stable.

    Telecommunications equipment and cell phones usually have the optimum valuable metals material – up to ten instances the typical of scrap electronics based mostly on for every unit excess weight. As technology improvements, the treasured metals material of electronics products normally decreases – owing to value reduction studying. Nevertheless, the more compact, more recent devices (e.g., sensible phones, tablets) have larger cherished metals material per unit weight than traditional electronics gear – this kind of as PCs. So, if the fat volume of electronics tools dealt with by the electronics business decreases, and the industry prices for treasured metals decreases – or at least does not improve – will the recovery price of precious metals from electronics scrap lessen? Almost certainly the recovery worth of valuable metals from electronics scrap for every device fat will increase given that more electronics products are getting smaller/lighter, but have a increased concentration of cherished metals (e.g., mobile telephones) than conventional e-scrap in whole. So, this aspect of the market may possibly in fact become more expense successful. But the total sector earnings from commodity scrap – and particularly precious metals – could not continue to boost.

    Market Composition

    The electronics recycling industry in the U.S. can be imagined of as comprising four tiers of businesses. From the really premier – that procedure nicely in surplus of twenty up to far more than two hundred million lbs. per 12 months – to medium, modest and the quite smallest businesses – that procedure considerably less than one million lbs. for every year. The prime 2 tiers (which symbolize about 35% of the firms) method around 75% of the market quantity. The number of firms in "Tier 1" has already decreased because of to consolidation – and continued market consolidation will almost certainly generate it a lot more towards the common 80/twenty design. Even though there are more than one thousand organizations running in the electronics recycling industry in the U.S., I estimate that the "Leading 50" firms procedure nearly half of the overall industry volume.

    What will occur to the scaled-down businesses? The mid-dimension firms will either merge, obtain, get acquired or spouse to compete with the larger companies. The tiny and smallest businesses will either find a market or vanish. So, the whole amount of firms in the electronics recycling business will most likely lessen. And more of the volumes will be dealt with by the greatest organizations. As with any maturing business, the most expense productive and profitable organizations will survive and expand.