The collection of obsolete electronics for recycling has grown considerably in the past 15 years, and just as importantly computer product OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are beginning to specify recycled plastic in an increasing number of new components.
According to Bill Long, president of Square Peg Industries LLC, Las Vegas, OEMs have started to show “preference given to [the use of] postconsumer resins,” in part tied to their seeking a high rating for products on the EPEAT rating system.
EPEAT, said Long, has been “the key driver” in the market for some recycled-content resins, with some secondary resins “exceeding the price of virgin [resin] because of OEM demand for postconsumer resin to meet the EPEAT gold standard,” according to Long.
“Recycled engineered plastics command a price premium,” said Long in a presentation at the 2014 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference. He said the engineering resins found most commonly in obsolete electronics include ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PC (polycarbonate), PC/ABS and HIPS (high-impact polystyrene).
Clouding the picture for electronics and plastics recyclers is the changing nature of technology, said Long, noting that while smartphones and tablet sales are spiking, sales of notebook and desktop computers have leveled off. Smartphones, added Long, contain “a challenging mix of plastics.”
Jonathan Levy of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), Washington, provided attendees with an update on ISRI’s effort to expand its list of plastic scrap specifications.
ISRI currently has specifications written for several types of plastic bottles, containers, bulky rigid plastics, buckets and drums. Its Plastics Division Specifications Committee is currently working on specifications for plastic films, with tentative plans calling for eight film grades ranging from premium to C grade and including MRF (material recovery facility), grocery and agricultural film grades.
Levy told attendees that ISRI’s specifications are intended to be used as “guidelines that provide a common vernacular” and that they are designed to be flexible. “You’re just using this as your starting point,” he commented.
ISRI’s scrap metal and paper specifications have been in place for decades and are used globally in the trading of those secondary commodities.
Levy said ISRI is seeking input on additional specifications from throughout the plastics recycling supply chain and urged attendees to contact him at JonathanLevy@isri.org if they would like to be involved in the specifications formation process. “If you’re seeing [a material] out there, you’re seeing what all of our members are seeing,” noted Levy.
The 2014 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference is Oct. 8-10 at the Marriott Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile.