The need for electronic scrap recycling is rising in response to the progressively shorter lifespan of electronic products and stringent government regulations governing the collection and processing of electronic waste (e-waste). The global electronic scrap recycling market is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 7.2% by volume during the forecast period from 2015 to 2022. Disposal or landfilling of e-waste raises serious health and environmental issues. On the contrary, its recycling proves to be a feasible solution for the elimination of its harmful effects.
E-waste consists of unwanted or broken electronic or electrical devices, and peripherals such as smartphones, televisions, laptops, refrigerators, computers, printers and other electronic products. The ever-rising problem of e-waste is being solved with the use of electronic recycling. Most electronic products are made up of metals, which are recyclable. The dismantling and recycling of end-of-life electronic products promotes the conservation of undamaged natural resources.
Moreover, electronic recycling helps in minimizing the air and water pollution that is common in the disposal and landfilling of e-waste. Electronic recycling consists of three main processes: collection, pre-processing, and end-processing. The overall electronic scrap market was valued at US$ 11.03 Bn in 2014.
The key drivers of the market include increased use of electronic products and shorter product lifecycle, prevention of environmental and health hazards, stringent regulation governing the collection and processing of e-waste and economic advantages of e-waste recycling. One of the key advantages of electronic recycling is the elimination of environmental and health hazards instigated by the disposal of e-waste in landfills. According to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the U.S., more than 4 million tons of e-waste are disposed in landfills every year, and this volume is expected to increase in the coming years. This e-waste contains a substantial amount of toxic and non-biodegradable substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and antimony. When e-waste is disposed in landfills, these toxic substances contaminate the water and soil, resulting in health problems. Recycling e-waste minimizes its propensity to cause health and environmental hazards. The use of electronic products and household equipment is on the rise globally.
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Most of the resultant e-waste from discarded electronic and household equipment is disposed of in landfills or exported illegally across international borders. The hazardous effects of e-waste and stringent government regulations to prevent improper disposal make electronic scrap one of the fastest-growing recycling segments. Europe is the second largest producer of e-waste in the world. The European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive focuses on maximizing the recycling and re-use of e-waste and minimizes the amount of it disposed in landfills.
According to this legislation, every year a minimum of four kilograms of e-waste per capita of the national population should be collected and recycled. This requirement might surge to approximately 13 to 16 kilograms of e-waste per person per year. Likewise, the Australian government has taken many initiatives to promote e-waste recycling. According to the Australian National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS), rather than exporting and landfilling, e-waste must be recycled according to the environmental guidelines. In order to promote this practice, since mid-2012, e-waste collection services have been provided across Australia and existing facilities were used for recycling. Presently, to collect obsolescent computers and televisions more than 40 drop off points are operational in the country.
Moreover, in March 2012, the U.S. General Service Administrator (GSA) announced a new e-waste policy for Federal Government banning all Federal agencies, from disposing e-waste in landfills. Thus, stringent regulations pertaining to environmentally friendly processing of e-waste drives the electronic recycling market. However, high costs involved in recycling process and technical barriers to the smelting and refining processes posing challenge to the market growth.
On the basis of metals extracted, the global electronic scrap recycling market is segmented into ferrous, non-ferrous and precious metals. In terms of volume, in 2014, ferrous metals were the major contributor in the market. However, non-ferrous metals segment is expected to expand at a substantial CAGR during the forecast period. In terms of revenue, precious metals segment dominated the market. The segment is predicted to hold its dominant position in the electronic scrap recycling market throughout the forecast period.
The electronic equipment contributing to the electronic scrap generated globally include office, IT equipment, and handheld devices, large white goods, small household appliances, lighting and electric product and automotive components. In 2014, large white goods are the major contributor to the electronic scrap generated globally. However, small household appliances are expected to expand at a substantial CAGR during the forecast period. Europe is the largest market for electronic scrap recycling, globally. Strong government regulations and huge profits generated through the recovery of precious metals from electronic scrap is expected to lead to a rise in the revenues of the electronic scrap recycling market in Europe in the coming years.
The global electronic scrap recycling market is consolidated, with a very small number of players dominating the global market. The most important strategy adopted by key players in the global electronic scrap recycling market is the geographical expansion of their businesses in order to gain a competitive edge in the market. For instance, in May 2010, LS-Nikko Copper, Inc. started its first U.S. liaison office at Electronic Recyclers International heaquarters, in Fresno, California. The company also believes in business expansion through the establishment of a wide geographical network. Consequently, it has established branches in various countries to deal with a competitive business environment proactively. LS-Nikko Copper imports raw materials and copper ores from Indonesia, Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina among other countries.
Moreover, it sells smelted products, including copper, in domestic and international markets. Another important strategy adopted by electronic recycling companies is innovation in the recycling process. Umicore N.V. is an example of an innovator in this market. In September 2014, Umicore signed a new standard for the processing of copper bearings or precious metal waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) fractions. The new standard is expected to contribute to enhancing the overall performance of the recycling chain, thus opposing the illegal use or practices of harmful and inefficient technologies for recycling.
The global electronic scrap recycling market, in current situation shows the presence of key players including Boliden Group, Umicore N.V., Dowa Holdings Co., Ltd., Ultromex Ltd., LS-Nikko Copper Inc., Glencore Xstrata Plc, Enviro-Hub Holdings Ltd., Outotec Oyj, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Materials USA Corporation, MRP Company, Inc., Aurubis AG, and JX Nippon Mining and Metal Corporation, Electronic Recyclers International, Inc., Sims Metal Management Ltd., Stena Technoworld AB, Tetronics Ltd., and Global Electric Electronic Processing Inc.