By Sunnking’s Vice President, Adam Shine
Facing monumental challenges in creating a sustainable and prosperous future requires decreasing energy consumption and carbon emissions. The U.S. manufacturing industry accounts for 25% of the country’s total energy consumption alone. In an effort to reduce this percentage, the U.S. Department of Energy selected the Sustainable Manufacturing Innovation Alliance to lead the new Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute. REMADE’s research and technology development, including advancements in plastics and electronics recycling, aims to make substantial contributions towards converting a global economy from linear to circular processes primarily for manufacturing.
The Institute is comprised of 26 universities, 44 companies, 7 national labs, and 26 industry trade associations leading the largest and most complex efforts to date in U.S. history in developing manufacturing processes that are critical to be competitive on a global stage. Currently, there are 17 REMADE initiatives which recently received the first round of federal funding totaling $70 million, and an additional $70 million in contributions from REMADE members. Sunnking is an active member supporting the goals of REMADE and is proud to be participating in one such initiative.
The Idaho National Lab (INL) has done extensive work on e-waste recovery and approached Sunnking to collaborate on a REMADE project titled “Evaluation of Logistics Systems for Collection, Reprocessing, and Production of Secondary Feedstocks from e-Waste.” As a logistics modeling specialist, INL presented the idea to apply their experience modeling industry supply chains for optimal efficiency to an e-recycling business model. The goal is to reduce inefficiencies within logistics of electronics processors’ operations by creating a decision support framework (DSF) software based on data Sunnking provides, and tests conducted within our operations. Once completed, the DSF will provide e-recyclers information they do not presently have on how their operations are connected to the e-scrap recovery ecosystem. This information is key to improving industry performance on local and national scales.
The inefficiencies the project aims to improve are evidenced by the low rate of e-scrap recycling at the consumer level. Seventy-five percent of collected material is received from businesses even though residents are the major consumers of electronics. The low collection rate can be attributed to residents’ inability to easily find e-recycling facilities and low economic incentives for them to recycle. Furthermore, the economics of going door to door isn’t justifiable by electronics recyclers.
Currently, the project is in the budgeting and approval process. We anticipate beginning work on project tasks in late 2018 or early 2019 with a two-year term. The INL will develop documents and training on how to use the DSF for recyclers to fully implement the new technology into their operations.
Disparate goals of individual stakeholders create conflicts but with the DSF, balanced decision making will create economically and environmentally sustainable supply chains and processes. All dynamic market conditions will be incorporated into the DSF, allowing us to move forward with innovative solutions for the health and safety of our environment and our future. We are eager about the potential impact this development is expected to have on the industry and excited to be on the ground floor of research and innovation.