The REMADE (Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions) Institute announced its first round of projects to receive federal funding. These projects are focused on driving down the cost of technologies needed to reuse, recycle and remanufacture materials such as metals, fibers, polymers and electronic waste.
One such project to receive funding, titled “Evaluation of Logistics Systems for Collection, Reprocessing, and Production of Secondary Feedstocks from e-Waste”, will be completed by Sunnking, Inc.
, an electronics recycling company based in Rochester, NY, in conjunction with Idaho National Lab. It will focus on the inefficiencies within the logistics of the current electronics recycling system as a whole.
Although electronics recycling in the U.S. has grown over the last two decades to include hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of workers, the industry continues to face challenges. Most e-scrap fails to enter the recycling stream. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly 75% of total material entering the recycling stream is industrial e-scrap, while residential users are the major electronics consumers. The inability to capture the most plentiful segment of the potential recycling stream suggests inefficiency in the current logistics system. Two reasons for difficulty in accessing residential e-scrap are ineffective placement of collection facilities and low-economic incentives. This results in low availability of electronics to be processed for reuse, the “feedstock” for the process, therefore causing higher costs due to competition between recyclers.
Further inefficiency occurs from stakeholders’ lack of understanding of how their individual operations are connected to the wider system of e-scrap recovery. In general, many of the supply chain stakeholders focus on the reduction of costs or increased productivity of their individual systems. The goals of the individual stakeholders can be conflicting, resulting in disagreement about the system objectives and unsustainable practice in the long-term. Understanding the entire system from collection to reintroduction will enable balanced decision-making, resulting in economically and environmentally sustainable supply chains. It will also examine how recyclable material moves through an individual facility and evaluate the efficiency and economic viability of each process that produces that feedstock.
The project will develop an e-scrap feedstock logistics model that includes dynamic market conditions for recycling and refurbished commodities. This decision support framework will identify optimal supply chain configurations that reduce recycling/refurbishing costs and energy consumption. Additionally, the model will improve industry performance by providing a system-level understanding of e-scrap recycling supply chains from the local to continental scale. These identified supply chain configurations, through industrial implementation, will demonstrate a 25% reduction in e-scrap recycling costs and a 30% reduction in embodied energy.
The project aims to reduce the costs and energy consumption associated with the industrial recycling and refurbishing process and improve stakeholder/participant understanding of e-scrap recycling in the supply system to promote e-scrap recycling growth. The completed framework will enable e-scrap recycling companies to analyze potential business decisions from collection though distribution. This software will save Sunnking time and resources by providing a tool for optimizing process performance under variable conditions. Once completed, the software will be accessible for download by the broader industry and public users through an open source repository, without proprietary information.
We are eager about the potential impact this development could have on the industry and excited to be in on the ground floor of research and innovation.
The project is anticipated to be completed in two years with roles and contribution split between Idaho National Laboratory and Sunnking.
By Adam Shine, Vice President
eScrap Beat Main