When one really dives into how most electronic devices are made it all starts with the mining industry, where the raw materials originate. The top 40 mining companies in the world reported 512B USD of revenue in 2013 and in order to keep the processes moving forward to continue earning a substantial amount of energy is consumed1. For a better understanding of the volume of energy consumed in mining practices the following countries reported energy consumption from mining alone: South Africa – 6 percent, Brazil’s Vale Corporation – 4 percent, and in the United States, Colorado’s mining industry consumes 18 percent for the total sector and in the U.S. industry-wide – 3 percent2.
While many efforts are in place to create energy-efficient methods and processes for mining and manufacturing, high energy-use remains. Electronic devices are made from valuable resources such as rare earth elements, precious metals, copper and petroleum for use in engineered plastics. All of these resources require a great deal of energy to process and manufacture. If we can eliminate the need for mining new materials by using recycled materials this could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and save energy and resources. In fact the United States Environmental Protection Association (EPA) estimates that recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year3.
There is no denying that recycling companies save energy, simply within their purpose of existence, but can the industry do more? One electronics reuse and recycling facility in Germany, owned and operated by Sims Recycling Solutions, is taking energy savings to the next level by committing to resource conservation through its recent ISO 50001:2011 accreditation.
The objective of this standard is to continuously improve energy-related performance and identify energy-reduction opportunities through the development of an energy management system (EnMS). This site set a goal to have a 10 percent reduction of energy consumption per metric ton of processed material within seven years4. Could this be the new industry standard? Will the competition catch on? We will just have to wait and see.
Click here to see what other certifications Sims Recycling Solutions manages.