The Electronics & Battery Recycling Confex MEA 2023

The Electronics & Battery Recycling Confex Middle East, organised by Waste & Recycling MEA magazine in Dubai on March 16, witnessed insightful discussions on the challenges and market trends in electronics waste and battery recycling.

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May 15 2023
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It was attended by about 200 WEEE processors, recyclers, technology providers, and electronics producers from the Middle East, Africa, India, and Europe. The conference began with a keynote speech by Dustin Cherniawski, Director, Enviroserve Group of Companies. He spoke about the challenges of e-waste accumulation, the economic opportunity in recycling e-waste, the need to build a circular system, and the future of the Electronics & Battery Recycling industry.

The panel discussions were highly engaging, with the panelists and audiences reflecting on various aspects of the electronics and battery recycling industry. Some of the key issues addressed were as follows:

  • Emerging challenges in the e-waste industry from a global perspective.
  • Lessons from the EPR schemes from across the globe.
  • The roles of manufacturers, producers, refurbishers, and recyclers for the successful. implementation of the EPR scheme.
  • The need for accountability and transparency in EPR implementation. • Electronic vehicles and the road ahead for battery recycling.
  • Challenges in collecting and recycling lithium-ion batteries.
  • The future of lithium-ion batteries; and the need for policy changes and technological investments

.…and more

The day also witnessed presentations on Key Concerns and Approaches to WEEE Plastics Recycling; Meeting the demand for battery materials in a Circular Economy; EV Battery reuse and energy storage and Lithium battery recycling in South Africa.

Closing the Loop – Emerging Issues in Electronics Recycling

The “Closing the Loop – Emerging Issues in Electronics Recycling” panel at the Electronics & Battery Recycling Confex offered the audience comprehensive insights into the e-waste industry from a global perspective. Speakers on this panel represented companies from India, UAE, Japan and Sri Lanka, and they analysed the emerging issues in these countries.

A.L.N Rao, CEO, Exigo Recycling Pvt Ltd, moderated the session. Youssef Chehade, Managing Partner, Ecyclex, spoke about regulations and enforcement in the UAE. “Since 2012, when the local municipalities started to bring in rules to regulate electronic waste, there has been a fairly professional ecosystem. However, enforcement is still an issue.” He pointed out that it leads to informal sector collecting and recycling e-waste in a risky and unsustainable manner

Sudesh Nandasiri, Managing Director,CWM Pvt Ltd, spoke about the e-waste regulations in Sri Lanka. He said three types of licenses are given away under the National Environment Act. Inoue Suguru, Sales Manager, DOWA Eco-System Co, said that Japan’s e-waste recycling rate is very high due to strict enforcement. He spoke about the recycling fee that is collected from the consumers for collection, transport and recycling when discarding gadgets and home appliances.

“Rules and regulations must be supported by guidelines,” pointed out Harbinder Singh, Chairman, Yes Full Circle Solutions, while adding that larger companies should take active steps to ensure compliance with rules. He also stressed the importance of EPR schemes to manage e-waste better.

Talking about profitability, Joseph Nforbin, Managing Director, Madenat Al Nokhba Recycling Services, said that businesses should ensure profit is sustainable. He went on to speak about the challenge in defining and categoring electronics and electrical waste. The future is bright in the industry, but we need to increase our awareness strategy, making sure that customers do understand why they have to recycle their electronic waste and where to do it, he added.

Collection issues

Chehade attributed the low collection rate of e-waste to accumulation in smaller quantities at different places. “It is more practical to collect e-waste from centralised places such as corporate offices than from homes,” he said. He highlighted how the collection issue has been sorted in the European countries due to the EPR schemes, which are absent in the Middle East.

Further, recyclers are ready to collect only those materials where there is a technology to recover metals and secondary raw materials from, the speaker noted. “While computers and laptops get collected, items such as electric lamps do not. They end up in landfills.”

Continuing the discussion on collection, Nandasiri commented, collection of materials has always been a problem. “Today, IT Asset disposal is seen as a major hurdle as businesses are reluctant to dispose of their hardwares fearing risk of data breaching.” This has led to the collection of low quantities of high quality materials.

Investment opportunities

Speaking about the investment opportunities in the field, Singh said there is a well established system for processing high-value e-wastes such as servers, phones and laptops.

“One has to identify new markets and invest in the right technology,” said Nforbin,adding that e-waste recycling is a profitable business but there are challenges such as technological shortcomings while recycling diverse types of electronic waste. Nadasiri pointed out that it calls for setting up more research & development facilities. “If you manage the e-waste materials in scientific way, it is a profitable business.” The panellists also shared their thoughts on availability of materials to handle different types of materials, labour shortage and skill development.

Singh said that YES Full Circle has put in a programme to train its workforce. “We invest time into it.” Some governments in Africa have developed training programmes in primary electronics and battery recycling. This should become mainstream and we should welcome trained and skilled people into the industry in the future, he added.

Speaking about closing the loop on electronic waste, Singh said that it should start right from product design. “E-waste is a huge resource. It is a pity that countries are still grappling with recovering materials from it.”

Chehade pointed out that closing of the loop need not be confined to a country’s border. “If a robust downstream system is in place, it is good enough.” For instance, the Middle East does not have a largescale PCB recycling facility. The recovery happens through companies in Japan, Europe, Asia and so forth. So as long as recyclers and industries are closing the loop, even if it’s not in the same country, if the downstream providers and refineries are doing the right thing, then at least that is good enough.”

EPR and Circular Economy: Global Perspectives

The panel discussion on EPR and Circular Economy: Global perspectives was moderated by Keith Anderson, Chairman, eWASA, South Africa. The speakers included A L N Rao, CEO, Exigo Recycling Pvt Ltd, Keshav Bhootda, Founder & Director, Climeto, Ruben Janse van Rensburg, Sustainable Impact Lead – MEA, HP Inc and Dustin Cherniawski, Director, Enviroserve Group of Companies. The panelists weighed in on the success and challenges of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for electronics waste from recyclers, producers and consultants’ perspective.

Speaking about the EPR scheme in India, A.L.N. Rao stressed the need for collaboration between all stakeholders. He said that EPR is a shared responsibility model, where all the stakeholders should collaborate to ensure material is put back into the loop. “Unless all the stakeholders understand the system and work collaboratively, EPR will never be a success.”

Keshav Bhootda highlighted how incentive programmes as part of the EPR is important for it to be successful in developing countries.

Ruben Janse van Rensburg commented “There are many ways to implement EPR and we’ve been sharing best practices. We’ve been looking at countries where EPR is really supporting, creating demand for materials and also striving to have a competitive environment.” From a producer point of view, he said, they are looking at cost effectiveness and compliance among many other factors and hope the problematic materials will ultimately be phased out. “As big OEMs, we all strive to design our product with the environment and sustainability in mind, and then ultimately making it easy to recycle and unlocking the value.”

Stakeholder, civil society and the governments should work together to create a fair level field for all, Rensburg said.

Dustin Cherniawski underscored the role of tax and the recycling fee. “We certainly can’t expect corporations to be acting so altruistically after all their core function is to turn a profit.”

“The purpose of a tax, as we know from our economics classes, is to account for negative externalities. And in the case of e-waste, it’s the problematic materials or a lack of collaboration. But one way or the other, the job needs to be done. We need to start introducing effective tax, whether that’s a tax by way of regulation or pressure or monetary tax. And it’s probably better that everybody suffers a little bit than individuals suffer a lot. So I think an extra 5 or 10 AED here or there as a recycling fee is completely acceptable.”

Rao commented that the current digitised EPR system would improve traceability and accountability. Under India’s new EPR regime, producers of notified EEE have been given annual E-Waste collection targets based on the generation from the previously sold EEE or based on sales of EEE as the case may be. “Recyclers have been given targets for the materials that they are collecting on behalf of the producers for the items sold.” The EPR scheme requires all the manufacturer, producer, refurbisher and recycler to register on a portal developed by the Central Pollution Control Board.” This he said. “The recyclers are also given targets as far as commodity recoveries are concerned. And the E P R certificates are being uploaded onto the portal and the producer purchases the certificates from the online portal. So it’s a disruptive model and probably one of its kind in the world.” “In this model, the producer would be able to visualize and calculate the cost in realistic terms.”

According to Rensburg, EPR brings a structure to the entire ecosystem - it brings visibility and certainty. Producers are obligated to think of cost, compliance and environmental management. Hence, from a producer point of view, “the EPR framework should provide fairness. I’m looking at avoiding free riders.” He highlighted that governments should make it clear who the obligated party is from a financial point of view.

One EPR system cannot be duplicated as the dynamics, role and importance of stakeholders vary from country to country, he said.

Cherniawski batted for a system that “puts a little bit more money into the pockets of the recyclers.”

Bhootda said the mechanism in India could be a potential example for the rest of the world. Technology could be beneficial for all stakeholders.

Challenges from free-riders

Anderson underscored the need for an effective enforcement of the schemes. “You can have the best legislation in the world if it’s not enforced, then it becomes meaningless.” Talking about the South African scenario, he said, “The biggest challenge that can lead to the potential collapse of the EPR system is free riders.”

Cherniawski opined, “It’s about being fair on who pays the fees, making sure that you incentivise and compensate those who are contributing for everybody’s benefits.” The panelists also spoke about the role of the informal sector and how EPR can create jobs.

Rao said, “The right type of education, the right type of training and incentives for training will ensure a transition to a circular economy. School and college programmes and skill development programmes are important.”

In his concluding remark, Rensburg said, “As a producer, I’ll put my trust and my faith in an effective extended producer responsibility mechanism that’s localized and that’s adapted for the very specific economic environment. It’s finding a perfect balance in terms of policy and regulation to ultimately unlock the best value.” It should look at job creation in repair opportunities and refurbish opportunities before end of life or before actual recycling take place.”

Cherniawski said EPR is particularly relevant for the Middle East and Africa regions. “Where tax dollars exist, there’s an opportunity to clean up the market where you need to, and incentivize and compensate people for doing that.”