New entrant to the Australian e-waste recycling arena, Scipher Technologies has taken over the largest e-waste recycling facility in Victoria and is rolling out a strategy to establish operations across the country.
The team has big plans to “positively disrupt” the national e-waste market, according to Chris Sayers, Executive Director. He says Scipher Technologies is on the cusp of introducing two key projects that will change the landscape of e-waste recycling.
“We’re very aspirational,” he says. “We believe we’re ahead of the curve.”
Chris has a background in finance and spent the past 25 years in Europe, 10 of those running his own advisory businesses. It was during this time that he worked with a Swiss-based company that developed and commercialised “game-changing waste processing equipment” that separates and recovers raw materials contained in e-waste to a high grade of purity. He says the opportunity to introduce the technology and know-how learned in Europe to Australia was a massive opportunity and he began to develop a business model for the Australian market. Scipher Technologies was formed in 2019.
In 2020, the company bought the Cleanaway e-waste facility in Dandenong, Victoria and is now “the largest licensed e-waste recycler in Victoria”.
Chris says the Dandenong site is considered the most advanced e-waste facility in Australia and is the only licensed facility operating a Blubox – a closed recycling system that operates under negative pressure to extract hazardous vapours and dust from e-waste as it’s processed.
He says the site has accredited off takers for the recycled materials including InfraBuild, Sims Metal Management, Norstar Recycling and Mitsubishi Metals Group. Scipher is also working with other innovative partners and research groups to enhance raw material recovery capability. Ultimately, the company wants to close the loop on e-waste and see the end-product reintroduced back to the economy.
“We sell all of our product, with the exception of plastics, because there’s currently no viable offtake or disposal pathway for recovered e-waste plastics in Australia, with the exception of landfill,” Chris says. “The impact of the Federal Government bans on exporting recyclable plastics hit the industry hard. We and other e-waste recyclers are stockpiling because we can’t export.”
Enter stage one of Scipher Technologies’ plan to revolutionise the industry.
Tackling e-waste plastics
“We have been working on an industry solution for e-waste plastics,” Chris says. “Our aim is to separate bonded plastic polymers and resins, and recover commodities that could be reused for manufacturing.
“In Australia you need to process recyclable plastic into a single resin before you can do anything with it. Typically, the plastic coating of a TV or PC contains up to 20 different bonded resins and polymers. Our innovative solution gradually granulates and then separates the valuable and recyclable polymers. The recovered product is able to be used for manufacturing new products.
“A significant amount of research and development has gone into the recycling solution and equipment. It’s an exciting piece of technology.”
Chris says Scipher Technologies is negotiating a lease agreement for a site in regional New South Wales to introduce the technology and is developing infrastructure to begin operations in three capital cities.
Scipher Technologies is also looking to take a leading position in solar panel recycling within Australia. For Chris, it’s a natural progression for the company.
“E-waste is expected to grow faster than any other waste stream globally,” he says. “Solar panel waste here in Australia is expected to grow exponentially. By 2030, it’s estimated there will be greater than 100,000 tonnes of end-of-life solar panels produced annually.
“We’re aiming to take a significant position in the market.”
Over the past six months the team at Scipher Technologies has been working in partnership with the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) and research and development advisors on what Chris says is a “commercially proven and environmentally sound recycling solution for recovery of solar panel fractions”.
The work with UNSW Sydney includes characterising and decontaminating the glass from solar panels so it can be reused by local manufacturers.
Chris says that with an existing network of clients, local councils and partners, they’re working to attract the attention of panel installers across Victoria and NSW to source end-of-life solar panels. They also have an arrangement with an overseas technology supplier that can recover 80 per cent of raw materials included in solar panels.
Solar panels have an effective lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. While old solar panels can still be disposed of in landfill in NSW, they have been banned from Victorian landfills.
“With the e-waste product stewardship scheme in place, importers of electronic equipment are liable for the cost of collection, recovery and recycling of end-of-life products,” Chris says. “There is a lot of noise about a similar structure for solar panels being introduced as early as June 2023. If that does happen, and industry and government want it to happen, there’s going to be demand for credible and responsible recyclers.
“We’re looking to make the first move.”
For more information, visit: www.scipher.com.au