Both automated and manual disassembly systems are being used to process Asia’s obsolete electronics.
Two presenters during a session at the Electronics Recycling Asia conference in Guangzhou, China, in November, offered different paths that obsolete electronics in China and Hong Kong can follow.
Zhou Jun of Hunan VARY Tech Co. Ltd., Changsha City, China, provided an overview of that company’s emergence as both an automated processor of electronic scrap and a designer and marketer of processing equipment.
Zhou said that in the previous decade, officials from China and Hunan VARY had visited Japan to observe that country’s success in tapping into its “urban mining” resources, including obsolete electronics.
He said his company and its leaders had subsequently “contributed a lot” to developing facilities and processes to shred electronic scrap and recover the metals and plastics contained in the product stream.
The company now operates three processing facilities in Hunan province and has “sold several sets” of new equipment, such as its VARY brand single-shaft, twin-shaft, triple-shaft and four-shaft shredders. Zhou said that of China’s 100 licensed electronic scrap processing plants, VARY equipment can be found at 60 of them.
In regards to the electronics recycling sector in China, Zhou said, “The market is improving, even though there are more players. Recyclers in China are trying to improve their market share by offering better service using improved equipment.”
In the same session, Linda Li of Hong Kong-based Li Tong Group (www.litong.com), said her company continues to focus on asset management, which often means refurbishing whole units and harvesting a greater percentage of components than many shredder operators might.
Li said that in the past 50 years companies focused largely on labor productivity improvement. In the next 50 years however, if resources remain expensive and scarce, a new emphasis could be placed on “materials productivity improvement.” This could mean less shredding and more disassembly before shredding occurs.
Regarding disassembly, Li said rust can be among the biggest barriers in the process, as can the use of “permanent fasteners” that can make disassembly difficult or destructive.
Li said Li Tong has worked with one tablet maker to handle its end-of-life tablets to keep them segregated so the plastic used for the housing could be recycled for use in the making of new products. “Through this partnership, everyone benefited,” she stated.
The tablet maker is able to tout the use of recycled materials and find a home for a substantial percentage of its product, while “the plastics supplier is happy [because the establishment of a loop] helps it maintain its business.”
Although many recyclers are focused on shredding, Li hopes stakeholders will consider the re-manufacturing path. “How about we recycle and re-use before the product actually becomes waste? Can we convince customers that a re-manufactured product can be just as good and [they are] doing something for sustainability?”
The Electronics Recycling Asia conference, organized by ICM AG, was Nov. 13-16 in Guangzhou, China.