Complex Materials & Components a Challenge for WEEE Recyclers : Economics Improved for E-Waste Recycling but Miniaturisation Poses Problems

International Electronics Recycling Congress
© International Electronics Recycling Congress

Delegates at the 16th International Electronics Recycling Congress IERC 2017 in Salzburg, Austria, have heard that while the economic situation of e-waste recyclers has improved slightly in some cases, it continues to be fraught with difficulty.

Key members of the international e-waste sector gathered for the annual congress which hosted some 480 participants and 60 exhibitors.

The conference agenda offered a broad array of highlights, including around 30 presentations and a diversity of panel discussions and workshops as well as three excursions to the companies Müller-Guttenbrunn Group, EREMA, and Montanwerke Brixlegg.

The presentations covered the entire range of topics relating to the recycling of e-waste, including presentations on technical innovations for treating e-waste and new sorting technologies.

The circular economy and subject of critical raw materials were also on the agenda and an interactive session caused a stir with participants, who enjoyed the opportunity of discussing current and future business models for recycling electrical and electronic waste with experts in the field.

A Small Problem

Delegates heard that the growing trend towards miniaturisation and the decreasing material value of devices in general continues to place pressure on the viability of treatment processes.

This was said to be further exacerbated by new challenges, such as the use of new types of complex material, which in many cases pose questions regarding how to recycle them at the end of their useful lives.

Crossing Boarders

Traditionally, further key components of the IERC conference programme are the country reports. This year, experts reported on e-waste recycling in Chile, Columbia, Peru and Germany.

The panel discussion on the cross-border shipment of waste also featured a strong international line-up, primarily focusing on the question of to which extent the shipment of waste contributes towards promoting the circular economy.

During the discussion it became evident that the notification process is often considered far too complicated. For this reason, among other ideas, conference participants proposed simplifying the process in order to speed things up.


The "IERC Honorary Award" is another highlight of every IERC conference. Since 2007, the IERC's International Steering Committee has presented this award annually to deserving personalities in the world of recycling.

Award winners in previous years include the European parliamentarian Karl-Heinz Florenz, Dr Mike Biddle (MBA Polymers), Jim Puckett (Basel Action Network), the adventurer Dr Bertrand Piccard, the former astronaut Ron Garan, and Steve Skurnac (Sims Recycling Solutions).

This year, the IERC Honorary Award went to Christian Müller-Guttenbrunn, Managing Partner and CEO of Müller-Guttenbrunn GmbH, which is based in Austria. He received the award for his life's work, for the development of new recycling processes, and the founding of new cleantech enterprises in both Austria and Eastern Europe.

The award was the second one for Christian Müller-Guttenbrunn within a short time, as only the previous day he had been given the European Business Award in the category for Environment and Sustainability.

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