Opinion

CEFC invests in recycling solutions for e-waste

The CEFC (Clean Energy Finance Corporation) is is committing $7.5 million to innovative Australian e-waste recycler Scipher Technologies to help tackle Australia’s mounting e-waste problem and reduce the associated emissions.

The CEFC investment in the Scipher Series B funding round, made through the Australian Recycling Investment Fund, is being matched by a $7.5 million investment from the Australian Business Growth Fund (ABGF), delivering $15 million to Australia’s recycling capabilities.

E-waste includes valuable commodities which can be recovered and recycled through ‘urban mining’, preventing them being sent to landfill. These commodities include steel and iron (ferrous metals); copper, aluminium and zinc (non-ferrous metals) and gold, silver and palladium (precious metals).

The CEFC investment, on behalf of the Australian Government, will enable Scipher to increase its e-waste processing capacity by investing in new and upgraded recycling infrastructure. Scipher is also planning to extend its recycling capacity to include mobile phones, lighting equipment, large household appliances and solar panels.

As part of the investment, Scipher is also acquiring Total Green Recycling, a Perth-based family business that has become WA’s leading e-waste recycler in just 14 years, processing more than 3,000 tonnes of e-waste annually.

“Technology is making profound changes to our lives, we use it every day, from entertainment and communication options to household appliances and solar panels. At the same time as we embrace these new technologies, and inevitably discard older ones, we need to turn our attention to the end-of-life treatment of our many devices,” CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said.

“Making more efficient use of finite resources is an important part of the transition to net zero emissions by 2050, with the added benefit of backing the growth of new industries and jobs. In our first e-waste investment, we are pleased to support Scipher in its ambitious plans to modernise the Australian e-waste recycling sector, improve recycling rates and lower emissions.”

E-waste comes in many forms, including computers, photocopiers, printers, mobile phones and batteries. While it contains potentially toxic materials such as mercury and lead, when handled correctly, 95 per cent of e-waste components can be recycled, reducing the environmental impact of landfill dumping, pollution, contamination as well as sourcing new materials.

“Scipher aims to be Australia’s leader in the responsible and transparent recycling of e-waste and end-of-life solar panels. Our services include recovery of high-grade commodities from e-waste through the use of advanced technology and unique, environmentally-sound recycling processes,” said Scipher managing director Chris Sayers. “The investment by the CEFC and ABGF will ensure we continue to focus on innovation, regulatory compliance and exceptional client service, while expanding our national operating footprint to provide positive environmental and social outcomes to all our stakeholders and partners.”

“Regulators, businesses and consumers are increasingly focused on the treatment of e-waste. Through this investment, we are supporting an exciting and growing Australian business which is investing in leading technology to maximise the recovery rates of valuable and potentially harmful waste. We are delighted to be investing alongside such an experienced and industry-leading management team,” said ABGF co-head of investments Patrick Verlaine.

 “E-waste recycling is a relatively under-developed part of Australia’s waste and recycling sector. This CEFC investment in Scipher is about capturing the very real benefits of cutting the volume of e-waste entering our waste streams while also increasing the recovery and re-use of these important metals,” said CEFC waste and bioenergy lead Mac Irvine.

“Upgrading and improving our e-waste recycling infrastructure can make a vital contribution to our transition to net zero emissions by 2050. With this investment we are pleased to be supporting Scipher in targeting direct emissions abatement of more than 20,000 tonnes of CO2-e each year.”

E-waste volumes and emissions

  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that Australia generated 539,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2018-19, with households accounting for 40 per cent of this.
  • Embodied emissions associated with e-products entering the Australian market are forecast to increase by 13 per cent by 2030, to just over 10 million tonnes CO2-e. Additionally, embodied emissions in e-wastes are forecast to increase by 22 per cent, to 6.8 million tonnes CO2-e.
  • The Global E-Waste Monitor estimates global e-waste volumes will reach 74 million tonnes per year by 2030 – almost doubling in just 16 years – as a result of higher consumption rates, shorter product lifecycles and limited repair options.
  • It also estimates that just 17.4 per cent of e-waste was collected and recycled globally in 2019, meaning that gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials – a conservatively valued at US$57 billion – were sent to landfill or inappropriately discarded

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