Miner and trader Glencore will find out this month whether it will be able to build an electronics recycling facility in the UK, which could be operational within 18 months, adding new capacity to the 75-year old business.
Reusing scrap metal will be vital for cutting noxious emissions and the energy transition as recycling uses significantly less energy — 80%-90% less for copper — than mining and smelting primary metal.
Around two-million tonnes of e-waste items such as computers, televisions and mobile phones are discarded each year in the UK, according to a British government health and safety agency.
“The UK site is aiming to recycle end of life discarded electronics from the UK and continental Europe,” Glencore’s head of copper and electronic waste recycling Kunal Sinha told Reuters in an interview.
Sinha declined to say where the facility would be sited or give any other details of the project.
“Once the permit is granted by the British government, the facility could be up and running within 12 to 18 months.”
The value of raw materials including iron, copper, gold and other precious metals in global electronic waste (e-waste)reached $57-billion in 2019, of which just $10-billion was recovered, according to a 2020 United Nations report.
Glencore recovered around 27 000 t of copper, 132 000 oz of gold, 1.3-million ounces of silver, 16 000 oz of palladium, and 5 000 oz of platinum from electronic scrap last year.
It has recycled more than one million tonnes of electronic scrap since the 1990s.
Away from Britain, Glencore is planning to rebuild an e-scrap facility in Arkansas, which it bought in 2019.
Scrap typically accounts for about a third of the roughly 30-million tonnes of annual global copper supplies.
Glencore’s copper production from own sources totalled 1.26-million tonnes last year.