E3Sixty is hoping new urban mining technology will change the way Australia and the world looks at e-waste.
Old mobile phones, laptops and PCs are “stock standard” household items in Australia. For Anthony Karam, Managing Director E3Sixty, they’re an untapped resource. As are the 48 kilograms per capita of e-waste that Australia generates each year.
For the past four years, Anthony and the team at E3Sixty have developed a process to extract materials from any form of e-waste into a clean, raw commodity for reuse. Anthony says the aim is 100 per cent diversion of e-waste from landfill and full recovery of all commodities including base materials and precious metals.
“We’re deploying what we believe is a world first whole e-waste recycling solution with a focus on Environmental, Social and Governance responsibility,” he says. “A key part of our focus has been the development of metallurgical processes that allow us to do things differently than what’s in the market now.
“We’re pretty excited about the next six to 12 months. Our major focus now is to work collaboratively with all the major industry stakeholders and roll out this solution.”
Anthony says whole e-waste devices can be processed without the need for prior dismantling. The low-temperature technology reduces devices to a fine ore before separating valuable resources including gold, silver, copper and palladium. The end product commodity is high quality because they’ve previously been refined.
He says while not the primary focus, the patented process can also be adapted to harness clean energy which can be redirected back into the plant or captured for re-use to power electric cars, heating or water treatment.
“The process started as a technology play as opposed to dealing with waste,” Anthony says. “We’ve integrated a new innovative technology and combined that with several existing technologies with bespoke adjustments to come up with an end-to-end solution for e-waste.
“We worked with some manufacturers in Europe and technology developers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand to develop the process and modify some standard equipment. We knew where we wanted to get to.”
Anthony says E3Sixty received a grant in round two of the Federal Government’s Manufacturing Modernisation Fund and is looking to establish a pyrolysis plant within the Parkes Special Activation Precinct in New South Wales, in addition to major operating facilities in metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne for materials recovery and separation, along with a tech centre.
He says, at full capacity, up to 60 tonne of e-waste materials can be processed daily and separated into a raw commodity that can be reused in manufacturing, creating a true circular economy.
“We think we can establish ourselves as the e-waste recycler of choice for the majority of the Australian market. It’s a matter of deploying more plant and equipment. The whole of our recycling process and plant is a modular design and relatively small scale which can be upscaled depending on demand.”
Mark Ryan, E3Sixty National Sales Director, envisions the E3Sixty e-waste technology will be particularly sought after by local governments to deal with e-waste collected at Material Recovery Facilities.
“From conversations I’ve had with councils, we could be at capacity of 60 tonnes a day within three to four months,” he says. “Councils and large corporates are desperate for solutions.”
Cam Bain, Group Chief Executive Officer, says while the technology will initially be used for e-waste, there is the potential to expand.
“We know we can do solar panels and medical waste,” he says. “We’re also looking at a potential way to process optical fibre. Once we get the process perfected, we can look at other waste streams that are major global issues.”
E3Sixty is securing feedstock supply for the New South Wales and Victorian facilities. Anthony says one of the key priorities for the company is the ability to provide an onshore solution for Australia’s e-waste.
“With changes in legislation recently banning the export of waste, Australia is looking for in-country solutions that eliminate waste to landfill.
“Historically, a lot of e-waste has found its way into landfill where it leaches and provides potentially challenging issues from an environmental point of view. We can provide a solution from start to finish that’s more environmentally friendly, efficient and cost effective.”
Cam adds that the ability to provide an in-country solution is also important for data protection for companies disposing of e-waste. He says cybercrime is on the rise and regulation and laws are tightening, putting further pressure on businesses to ensure the secure destruction of their e-waste. Traditionally, that would require a variety of operators to process and transport different materials, making it difficult to track.
“E3Sixty guarantees the complete destruction of the entire electronic device, rendering it impossible to breach,” he says. “All of our work is certified. From an ESG point of view, businesses can rest assured their data is not compromised because it’s taken to a point where it can never be used again.
“At the same time, we create a true circular economy by extrapolating all the precious metals and base materials and put it back into local manufacturing.”
E3Sixty is looking to establish in Queensland next as part of a national expansion.
“This is a long-term solution, we want to entrench ourselves in Australia then with some planning, and the evolution of relationships, we’ll look to take on opportunities overseas,” Anthony says.
For more information, visit: www.e3sixty.com.au