The expansion of commercial and consumer devices that are connected wirelessly to the internet (aka smart products) will have significant impact on the economics for the electronics recycling industry. Coupled with international import restrictions, especially from China, electronics recyclers will likely need to offset declining commodity recoveries with service revenue or cost reductions to maintain profitability.
The cautionary tale certainly is the ongoing saga of CRT disposal costs, abandonments, and illegal practices of numerous recyclers. Generally, recyclers now understand that clients must be charged a recycling fee in order to adequately cover the costs of recycling these devices safely and legally.
Several other product types are moving or have moved into the realm where the costs to recycle responsibly cannot be offset by recovered commodity values. Many printers, peripheral devices, and batteries now represent a liability rather than a valuable asset from a scrap recycling standpoint.
Foreign import restrictions will reduce export options or increase logistic for many recyclers. The inexpensive “back-haul” container options from the U.S. to China are not available for most other export markets.
As was evident again at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show
in Las Vegas, the next generations of consumer electronics products are smaller, lighter, and have less valuable commodity content than ever before.
For recyclers who plan and run their businesses on the basis of weight, these trends will likely requires significant changes or adjustments.
ISRI Electronics Division Chair