Putting e-waste to work in Sweden
Electrical and electronic products are increasingly part of our everyday lives. At the same time, the raw materials needed to produce them are becoming scarce. Recycling makes environmental and economic sense. Swedish metals expert Boliden is extending its recycling business with a little help from an EIB loan.
Electronic waste is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. In the EU alone, some 10 million tonnes are tossed out each year. The average EU citizen's electronic product purchases currently equate to 24 kg of e-scrap per year, which is likely to increase the rate of collection and recycling across Europe.
"A growing share of metal production will originate from recycling", says Roger Sundqvist, General Manager of at the Rönnskär recycling facility in northern Sweden. The demand and resulting use for products that contain electronics, such as computers, TVs, audio, video, mobile phones, is constantly increasing and the lifespan of electronic products is becoming progressively shorter. "That's why we see enormous potential for environmental and economic benefits from increased recycling", he adds.
A world leader in e-scrap recycling
A EUR 85m loan is helping Boliden, one of Europe's leading metals company, expand its electronic scrap recycling facility at the Rönnskär smelter, which employs some 800 people. This complements a EUR 60m loan from the Nordic Investment Bank.
"This investment means that we can process three times as much electronic scrap, bringing the total annual capacity to 120 000 tonnes. This will enable the production of some additional 2 tonnes of gold, 30 tonnes of silver and 15 000 tonnes of copper, as well as other metals", Roger Sundqvist explains.
Almost all precious metals in electronic products can be recovered and reused. Boliden has developed a special technique for this. Extracting metals from scrap only requires 10-15% of the energy required to extract metals from ore. Even what remains of the waste after the metals have been extracted is put to use. Boliden has over time increased the sophistication of the processes.
Volumes of electronic scrap are increasing globally, but only a few smelters can process it. Inaugurated in June, Boliden's new electronics recycling facility at the Rönnskär smelter makes the company a world leader within this field. The increased electronic scrap processing capacity boosts raw materials availability while at the same time helping build a sustainable eco-cycle in which as much metal as possible is repeatedly recycled."Our increased recycling capacity combines high environmental performance with good business returns", Roger Sundqvist concludes.