October 14, 2020 marked the third International E-Waste Day, designed to promote compliant and sustainable disposal of e-waste throughout the world. This year, amid the global pandemic, a particular focus given to education and activities predominantly took place online.
Virtual Conference: “A circular economy in E-waste for an Atmanirbhar Bharat”
Sims Lifecycle Services’ (SLS) Global President, Ingrid Sinclair, spoke in the virtual event “A circular economy in E-waste for an Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India)”. Hosted by Karo Sambhav and the U.S. India Business Council (USIBC), during the virtual conference stakeholders from the e-waste space deliberated on solutions for developing a responsible and sustainable e-waste management system that promotes a circular economy in India.
The intent for the conference was to create a space for discussion on understanding the intricacies of the e-waste ecosystem and how the circular economy plays into it. With a goal to transition to a circular economy where resources are mobilized and utilized efficiently, and sustainability is embodied in theory and practice. Sinclair participated in the session discussing creating an enabling environment and a level playing field for businesses to adopt circular practices in India, alongside representatives from Dell Technologies, Covestro and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
With the parent company, Sims Limited, committed to its purpose to create a world without waste to preserve the planet, SLS is ideally positioned to contribute to India’s journey toward circular practices for electronics. SLS offers global and pan-India services with facilities across five continents, including two in India located in Bangalore and Noida. Processing over 24 thousand tonnes of cloud material in the last financial year and reselling 3.9 million units SLS works with enterprises, manufacturers and data centers to deliver circular disposition solutions to global companies, including 150 within the Fortune 500.
Rapid advances in technology and increasing demand for electronics, especially in the form of information and telecommunication equipment have led to unparalleled growth of e-waste worldwide during the last two decades. As the demand for electronic equipment increases, so does the amount of e-waste generated.
A record 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21 percent in just five years, according to the United Nation’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020. International E-waste Day has been developed by the WEEE Forum, an international association of electronic waste collection schemes.
India stands as the third largest e-waste generator in the world, producing a total of 3.2MT of e-waste in 2019, an increase by 43 percent in just three years, according to a written statement presented in the Lok Sabha (September 23, 2020) by the Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Considerable progress has been made in managing e-waste in India since the 2016 E-waste (Management) Rules, which were based on the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). However, major gaps remain. The formal recycling system remains constrained by the limited capacity available for processing the total e-waste generated and other associated policy and standardization considerations.
E-waste is a complex stream of waste, as it contains both hazardous chemicals and valuable metal components. Its management is an intricate process necessitating adequate research and development expertise, public participation and policy interventions.
The informal recycling market continues to exist with extremely low barriers to entry. It is estimated that the informal market controls around 80 percent of the e-waste volume generated, without formal management or regulation. Many hazardous wastes (e.g. LCD, CFL) are not properly disposed of and enforcement of existing regulations not followed. Cost continues to be a deciding factor – compliant and capitalized firms are at a cost disadvantage. Regulations prohibit export of material to the most efficient recovery processes.
SLS sees India as a core market for its global client base, and as an opportunity for growth. With a population of 1.3 billion and notable increases in demand for cloud storage there is much opportunity to provide compliant and certified ITAD and recycling services in India. Data center decommissioning and disposal services are a core business stream for SLS and the concentration of data centers in Delhi and Bangalore make pan-India processing capabilities an excellent investment.
It is important to have consistency in the level of operative standards between sites globally and SLS invests in ensuring that facilities are safe, secure and compliant. SLS’s sites in Noida and Bangalore fulfill global services in accordance with the same consistent standards as all SLS sites across the world. The following certifications are implemented at these sites:
- ISO standards 9001 (Quality Management)
- 14001 (Environmental Management)
- 18001 (Health and Safety Management)
- 27001 (Information Security Management)
These responsible recycling operations, support and create sustainable jobs and protect the environment. Redeployment and reuse are the truest forms of recycling and reduce greenhouse gases.
Plastics Committee Session of the Bureau of International Recycling’s (BIR) World Environment Conference
Meanwhile two senior Sims Lifecycle Services staff spoke at the Plastics Committee Session of the Bureau of International Recycling’s (BIR) World Environment Conference. Not for the first time, regulations took center stage in the discussions. SLS’s Senior Policy Analyst, Patricia Whiting was a guest speaker at the event and participated in an in-depth review of Basel Convention amendments coming into force at the beginning of 2021. Where previously most plastics waste had fallen outside the scope of the Convention, new criteria will affect all but a few types of scrap plastics shipments.
This new trading burden could potentially result in negative implications for the circular economy through limits on plastic waste available as inputs for recycling facilities, and limits on the availability of post-consumer, recycled plastics. The phraseology of the amendments leaves space for interpretation, for example that they should consist ‘almost exclusively’ of a single polymer’ and be ‘almost free from contamination’, leaving competent authorities to grapple with the definitions around what levels of contamination would be acceptable.
Sims Lifecycle Services has been at the forefront of developing closed-and-open-loop plastics recycling models with several global OEMs. SLS’s Global Plastics Manager, Jan-Hein Stiens shared his concerns that the differing interpretations of the scope would render instant compliance a challenge. Jan-Hein and SLS are working hard to be compliant by January 1, 2021 and shared some optimism that many OEMs have already recycled materials into their long-term strategies and so would continue to offer consistent demand.
The webinar also featured the official launch of the BIR report “Recycling Plastics: Facts, Data and Policy Recommendations” which encompasses the contribution of plastics to everyday life, their environmental impact, and the benefits of recycling over the alternatives of landfill and incineration. BIR is using the report to call on governments to establish a more favourable environment for plastics recycling and to urge manufacturers and producers to work closely with recyclers on design for recycling to ensure easier sorting of collected materials and higher levels of recyclability.
Plastics are becoming more important and SLS has implemented industry-leading processes to help clients with plastics to achieve circularity and sustainability goals through creating closed-and-open-loop recycled material processes. Because electronics are manufactured using multiple types of plastics, efficiently separating plastics from other commodity streams is essential to producing clean, recyclable material that increases reuse opportunities.
The trend that SLS has seen developing over the last few years, due to these tightened measures, is that the demand for recycled plastics from electronic manufacturers continues to grow, despite the low prices of virgin plastics due to low oil prices. This is a huge step forward in sustainable recycling of electronics as plastics are one of the most problematic materials manufactured into IT and data center equipment. SLS is committed to working with clients to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract maximum value from those resources while in use, and to recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of their useful life.