What will the trend towards circular economy bring with it? Which opportunities will emerge for the recycling industry? And, which technologies are available to further improve the material yield when processing electrical and electronic waste? Those were just some of the topics discussed at this year’s International Electronics Recycling Congress IERC 2016, which was held in Salzburg, Austria in January. Around 470 participants and 61 exhibitors came to last week’s annual industry meeting. Again this year, the conference program was extremely comprehensive, including 30 lectures, two workshops and three excursions to the Montanwerke Brixlegg recycling plant, the Austrian recycling group Müller-Guttenbrunn and the companies Elektronik Altgeräte Recycling (EAR) and Tiroler Recycling GmbH (TRG).
The conference’s keynote speeches were held by Dr Markus Laubscher, Program Manager Circular Economy at Royal Philips, and Steve Skurnac, Global President at Sims Recycling Solutions. In his speech, Markus Laubscher emphasized the commitment of Philips to the circular economy. In order to implement its aims, the enterprise needs strong partners, presenting excellent opportunities for the recycling industry. In his speech, Steve Skurnac affirmed that recycling companies are capable of providing valuable services in terms of product design, collection and recycling initiatives. The trend towards a circular economy offers a host of opportunities for recyclers to work together with manufacturers.
Other speakers too left no doubt that the recycling industry will benefit from manufacturers stepping up their efforts to develop the circular economy. The recycling industry, which is currently experiencing a tough time due to the decreasing material value of electrical and electronic waste, may see this as an interesting prospect for future development. However, in order to make this perspective reality, above all, the manufacturers are called upon, emphasized Patrick Wiedemann, CEO of Reverse Logistics Group RLG, in his speech. It is up to them to take the initiative to develop the circular economy and thereby play a key role.
In the meantime, providers of recycling technologies are also increasing their efforts to improve the material yield through continual technical innovation. Many of the talks held at the IERC 2016 were about new methods being developed with the aim of optimizing the effectiveness of treatment processes. The talks were accompanied by the exhibitors’ forum, consisting of 61 companies this year. Those taking part in the congress had the opportunity to find out which innovations are currently on the market by talking to the exhibitors at the venue. The chance to personally exchange ideas and information, maintain existing contacts and initiate new business relationships is one of the most important aspects of the IERC industry meeting.
The conference also featured other speakers, who described the developments of the e-waste market in selected countries. The country reports are an integral part of the IERC. This year, Viktor Duart of IBM gave listeners an insight into the recycling market in Latin America. Jerry Powell of E-Scrap News provided information on the market situation in the USA and Shelagh Kerr of Electronics Product Stewardship Canada described how increased manufacturer responsibility is changing the way things are done in Canada.
The “IERC Honorary Award” is another highlight of every IERC conference. Since 2007, the IERC’s International Steering Committee has presented this award to deserving people. Award winners in previous years include the European parliamentarian Karl-Heinz Florenz, Dr Mike Biddle (MBA Polymers), Jim Puckett (Basel Action Network), Manfred Beck (Recycling International), the adventurer Dr Bertrand Piccard and the former astronaut Ron Garan.
This year, the IERC Honorary Award went to Steve Skurnac, Global President of Sims Recycling Solutions, who received the award in recognition of his work in promoting the electronics recycling industry. The International Steering Committee took its decision in honour of the 25 years of tireless work on international markets that has made Steve Skurnac a leading figure in the recycling industry.