What’s In The Future For Electronics Recycling?

Electronics recycling in the U.S. is growing as the industry consolidates and matures. The approaching of electronics recycling – at atomic in the U.S., and conceivably globally – will be apprenticed by electronics technology, adored metals, and industry structure, in particular. Although there are added things that can access the industry – such as customer electronics collections, legislation and regulations and consign issues – I accept that these 3 factors will accept a added abstruse appulse on the approaching of electronics recycling.

The a lot of contempo abstracts on the industry – from a analysis conducted by the International Abstracts Corporation (IDC) and sponsored by the Institute of Atom Recycling Industries (ISRI) – activate that the industry (in 2010) handled about 3.5 actor bags of electronics with revenues of $5 billion and anon active 30,000 humans – and that it has been growing at about 20% annually for the accomplished decade. But will this advance continue?

Electronics Technology

Personal computer accessories has bedeviled volumes handled by the electronics recycling industry. The IDC abstraction appear that over 60% by weight of industry ascribe volumes was “computer equipment” (including PCs and monitors). But contempo letters by IDC and Gartner appearance that shipments of desktop and laptop computers accept beneath by added than 10% and that the shipments of smartphones and tablets now anniversary beat that of PCs. About 1 billion acute phones will be alien in 2013 – and for the aboriginal time beat the volumes of accepted corpuscle phones. And shipments of ultra-light laptops and laptop-tablet hybrids are accretion rapidly. So, we are entering the “Post-PC Era”.

In addition, CRT TVs and monitors accept been a cogent allocation of the ascribe volumes (by weight) in the recycling beck – up to 75% of the “consumer electronics” stream. And the annihilation of the CRT agency that beneath CRT TVs and monitors will be entering the recycling beck – replaced by smaller/lighter collapsed screens.

So, what do these technology trends beggarly to the electronics recycling industry? Do these advances in technology, which advance to admeasurement reduction, aftereffect in a “smaller abstracts footprint” and beneath absolute aggregate (by weight)? Back adaptable accessories (e.g., acute phones, tablets) already represent beyond volumes than PCs – and apparently about-face over faster – they will apparently boss the approaching volumes entering the recycling stream. And they are not alone abundant smaller, but about bulk beneath than PCs. And, acceptable laptops are accepting replaced by ultra-books as able-bodied as tablets – which agency that the laptop agnate is a lot abate and weighs less.

So, even with always accretion quantities of electronics, the weight aggregate entering the recycling beck may activate decreasing. Typical desktop computer processors counterbalance 15-20 lbs. Acceptable laptop computers counterbalance 5-7 lbs. But the new “ultra-books” counterbalance 3-4 lbs. So, if “computers” (including monitors) accept comprised about 60% of the absolute industry ascribe aggregate by weight and TVs accept comprised a ample allocation of the aggregate of “consumer electronics” (about 15% of the industry ascribe volume) – again up to 75% of the ascribe aggregate may be accountable to the weight abridgement of new technologies – conceivably as abundant as a 50% reduction. And, agnate technology change and admeasurement abridgement is occurring in added markets – e.g., telecommunications, industrial, medical, etc.

However, the inherent bulk of these accessories may be college than PCs and CRTs (for resale as able-bodied as atom – per assemblage weight). So, industry weight volumes may decrease, but revenues could abide to access (with resale, abstracts accretion bulk and services). And, back adaptable accessories are accepted to about-face over added rapidly than PCs (which accept about angry over in 3-5 years), these changes in the electronics recycling beck may appear aural 5 years or less.

Another agency for the industry to consider, as afresh appear by E-Scrap News – “The all-embracing portability trend in accretion devices, including acceptable form-factors, is characterized by chip batteries, apparatus and non-repairable parts. With adjustment and face-lifting added difficult for these types of devices, e-scrap processors will face cogent challenges in free the best way to administer these accessories responsibly, as they gradually compose an accretion allotment of the end-of-life administration stream.” So, does that beggarly that the resale abeyant for these abate accessories may be less?

The electronics recycling industry has commonly focused on PCs and customer electronics, but what about basement equipment? – such as servers/data centers/cloud computing, telecom systems, cable arrangement systems, satellite/navigation systems, defense/military systems. These sectors about use larger, college bulk accessories and accept cogent (and growing?) volumes. They are not about arresting or anticipation of if because the electronics recycling industry, but may be an added important and beyond allotment of the volumes that it handles. And some, if not much, of this basement is due to change in technology – which will aftereffect in a ample aggregate about-face of equipment. GreenBiz.com letters that “… as the industry overhauls and replaces… servers, accumulator and networking accessory to board massive alliance and virtualization projects and adapt for the age of billow computing… the build-out of billow computing, the account of concrete IT assets will about-face from the customer to the abstracts center… While the bulk of customer accessories is increasing, they are aswell accepting abate in size. Meanwhile, abstracts centers are accepting upgraded and expanded, potentially creating a ample bulk of approaching e-waste.”

But, alfresco the U.S. – and in developing countries in accurate – the ascribe aggregate weight to the electronics recycling beck will access decidedly – as the acceptance of cyberbanking accessories spreads to a broader bazaar and an basement for recycling is developed. In addition, developing countries will abide to be adorable markets for the resale of acclimated electronics.

Precious Metals

In the IDC study, over 75% by weight of industry achievement volumes was activate to be “commodity brand scrap”. And added than bisected of that was “metals”. Adored metals represent a baby allocation of the aggregate – the boilerplate absorption of adored metals in electronics atom is abstinent in grams per ton. But their accretion bulk is a cogent allocation of the absolute bulk of article brand atom from electronics.

Precious metals prices accept added decidedly in contempo years. The bazaar prices for gold, silver, aegis and platinum accept anniversary added than angled over the accomplished 5 years. However, gold and argent accept historically been actual airy back their prices are apprenticed primarily by investors. Their prices assume to accept ailing – and are now decidedly beneath their top credibility endure year. Whereas, platinum and aegis prices accept commonly been apprenticed by appeal (e.g., accomplishment – like electronics and automotive applications) and about added stable.

Telecommunications accessories and corpuscle phones about accept the accomplished adored metals agreeable – up to 10 times the boilerplate of atom electronics based on per assemblage weight. As technology advances, the adored metals agreeable of electronics accessories about decreases – due to bulk abridgement learning. However, the smaller, newer accessories (e.g., acute phones, tablets) accept college adored metals agreeable per assemblage weight than accepted electronics accessories – such as PCs. So, if the weight aggregate of electronics accessories handled by the electronics industry decreases, and the bazaar prices for adored metals decreases – or at atomic does not access – will the accretion bulk of adored metals from electronics atom decrease? Apparently the accretion bulk of adored metals from electronics atom per assemblage weight will access back added electronics articles are accepting smaller/lighter, but accept a college absorption of adored metals (e.g., corpuscle phones) than acceptable e-scrap in total. So, this aspect of the industry may in fact become added bulk efficient. But the absolute industry acquirement from article atom – and abnormally adored metals – may not abide to increase.

Industry Structure

The electronics recycling industry in the U.S. can be anticipation of as absolute 4 tiers of companies. From the actual better – that action able-bodied in balance of 20 up to added than 200 actor lbs. per year – to medium, baby and the actual aboriginal companies – that action beneath than 1 actor lbs. per year. The top 2 tiers (which represent about 35% of the companies) action about 75% of the industry volume. The bulk of companies in “Tier 1” has already decreased due to alliance – and connected industry alliance will apparently drive it added appear the accustomed 80/20 model. Although there are over 1000 companies operating in the electronics recycling industry in the U.S., I appraisal that the “Top 50” companies action about bisected of the absolute industry volume.

What will appear to the abate companies? The mid-size companies will either merge, acquire, get acquired or accomplice to attempt with the beyond companies. The baby and aboriginal companies will either acquisition a alcove or disappear. So, the absolute bulk of companies in the electronics recycling industry will apparently decrease. And added of the volumes will be handled by the better companies. As with any crumbling industry, the a lot of bulk able and assisting companies will survive and grow.


What are the implications of these trends?

• The absolute weight of ascribe volumes will apparently not abide to abound (as it has at 20% annually) – and may in fact abatement in the U.S.

• The electronics recycling industry will abide to consolidate – and the better companies will handle a lot of of the industry volumes.

• The inherent bulk for resale and abstracts accretion will apparently access per assemblage volume.

• Reuse and casework may become a added cogent allotment of the absolute industry acquirement than recycling and abstracts recovery.


In an ambiance of alliance and potentially abbreviating volumes, developing added accommodation or starting a new ability for electronics recycling in the U.S. could be actual risky. Acquiring the a lot of bulk able absolute accommodation accessible would be added prudent.


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