From Nov. 14-16, leaders of the repair, reuse, and recycled materials industries gathered in Denver, Colo., for the 2022 Electronics Reuse Conference (ERC). Throughout the three-day event attendees could meet with new suppliers, find solutions to businesses challenges, or learn something new to help increase profits. It also provided the ideal space for ISRI and its members to make an impact on electronics recycling.

“Attending these types of conferences is an important way we show potential members about the value of ISRI,” says Adam Shine, president of New York-based electronics recycler Sunnking. “We’re constantly out in front of these conferences working to build a strong membership for the recycled materials industry as well as the repair, reuse, and refurbishment industries.”

For Craig Boswell, co-founder and president of HOBI International, Inc., these events are part and parcel of what ISRI stands for as an organization. “ISRI had a big presence at the conference,” he says. “The association touches on all aspects of the reuse, repair, and refurbishment space from our Brands Leadership Council where we interface with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to broader issues like logistics and the transboundary movement of recycled materials.”

Both Boswell and Shine noted that one of the major takeaways was how the industry is prioritizing sustainability and the important role electronics recyclers in providing a renewable source of high-quality materials for manufacturers to create everyday items and essential infrastructure people depend on.

“Both OEMs and participants in the repair and reuse sector recognize the role of electronics recyclers,” Boswell notes. “There was great dialogue between those two ends of the spectrum and how we can make the process better and what issues might be affecting the process.”

Manufacturers discussed efforts to design products with end-of-life in mind in the panel “Driving Circularity through the Electronics lifecycle,” featuring speakers from Google, Samsung, and Dell.

“These companies recognized the importance of creating products with end-of-life and sustainability goals in mind,” Boswell says. Drew Tosh, director of experience design strategy at Dell, discussed Project Luna—a notebook computer that carries as little carbon impact as possible including a smaller motherboard, a fan-less system, and 10 times fewer screws than current laptop models. Paul Walker, Samsung’s senior director for customer service in North America, shared how the company is creating new retailer collection points for used devices to get more devices into the recycling and repair streams. “Some of these extra touch points are tied to Samsung’s recent launch of an independent service provider program, which gives companies not authorized by Samsung access to critical parts and tools,” Boswell explains.

Scott Shackelford, Google’s hardware technical program manager on device repairability, discussed the new software initiative from Google—Chrome OS Flex. “If you have an old Mac, Windows laptop, or Chromebook you could install Chrome OS Flex as an operating system in any of these devices to expand the lifecycle of that device, which includes updates,” Shine says. “That’s something we’ve had issues with in the past where devices are too old systematically or from a software perspective where you can’t upgrade it further, this is aimed at changing that and extending the full life of the product. It was great to see manufacturers focusing on sustainability. I think consumers are starting to demand sustainable solutions and it’s making manufacturers take a harder look at product lifecycles and sustainability, which is good for the planet.”

Other sessions covered important areas of interest such as data destruction; privacy; ESG; the Basel Convention; sustainability; and safe battery recycling and handling. “We’ve been talking about [battery recycling] for about five years,” Boswell says. “With electric vehicles (EVs) on the road it’s become a bigger issue for everyone. But safe battery handling and recycling encompasses everything from EVs to the batteries embedded in mobile devices.”

Shine served as a session speaker on the “Recycling 101: Why Recycling and Reuse Companies Need One Another.” He was joined by Joe Opron from Sipi Metals and Sean Miles from Recycle Global Exchange (RGX). The session was moderated by by Dan Leif from Resource Recycling. Panelists discussed how and why ITAD companies and recyclers can benefit from relationships with one another, and ways these relationships add to both parties’ bottom lines.

“ITAD companies will focus on refurbishment and resell, but what are they going to do with the gear they can’t sell? They can partner with a certified recycler to recycle the material and hopefully everyone gets value from it,” Shine explains.

On the last day of the conference, ISRI sponsored the ERC Mentoring Breakfast where participants could connect with fellow attendees and ISRI staff to chat about key industry topics and career development in a casual setting. The discussion topics included technology and automation; certification and safety; industry leadership; culture; and circular economy and ESG.

“We had tables set up with different topics so people who came for breakfast could pick a table based on what topic they were interested in and have a great discussion,” Shine says. “The morning turned into an opportunity for networking and great discussion. It was well attended, and highlighted ISRI in a great way. It was a good way to conclude the conference.”


Photos Courtesy of ISRI.

Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is the Editorial Director at ReMA. She's interested in a wide range of topics in the recycled materials industry and is always eager to learn more. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in History and a minored in Creative Writing. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband.