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64 PCB007 MAGAZINE I DECEMBER 2018 pact PCB suppliers both directly through new quality or compliance requirements, or indi- rectly through a change in customer or pub- lic perceptions. Whether that is a threat or an opportunity depends on a variety of fac- tors and how companies including recyclers choose to respond. Environmental consider- ations can often be downplayed, ignored, or simply overshadowed by the drive for maxi- mizing returns, and smaller operations may be more vulnerable. Of course, manufacturers, suppliers, and re- cyclers must comply with regulatory require- ments and operate profitably in a competitive marketplace to remain in business, yet how companies respond can have long-term conse- quences. Environmental liabilities can surface years later from improper management and challenge a company's reputation or very ex- istence. Liability can also lurk closer to home. When any recycler goes out of business and leaves a mound of hazardous waste behind, there can be finger pointing and a search for deep pockets [4] . For these reasons, it is im- portant for manufacturers and suppliers to de- velop close, trusted downstream relationships and understand recycling and recovery pro- cesses and the ultimate fate of their products. Baseline Value The value of recycled e-waste can vary wide- ly. Recent bans from China and Thailand on e-waste emanating from the U.S. further de- values recycled e-scrap in the U.S. and puts pressure on collection facilities, landfills, and tipping fees. At the same time, the value of re- covered precious metals can gyrate, making planning difficult. The profitability of recovery and refining operations is often closely tied to metals commodity prices, and foremost among those is gold. Over the last 10 years, gold has swung from below $750/oz. in 2009 to a high of nearly $1,900/oz. in 2011 before settling into a range around $1,250/oz. ±$200 [5] . Pal- ladium has seen even wilder swings with pric- es jumping over $1,100/oz. in the last month from $175/oz. a decade ago. Manufacturers should seek waste recyclers that are financially stable. Those in a better po- sition to withstand market fluctuations are also more likely to value their reputation and envi- ronmental responsibility and have programs in place to ensure environmental compliance and traceability. There is also variability at the part level for electronic scrap. The amount of gold in a dy- namic random access memory (DRAM) can easily vary by a factor of three or more de- pending on the exact part and manufacturer. Counterfeit parts in EOL waste streams can also confound expectations about returns. Fair pricing for e-scrap is often a matter of experi- ence with a supplier and trust that builds over time. Speculators can acquire parts and either hold them for years hoping for market condi- tions to change for resale, or seek an immedi- ate premium on the precious metals content, but may generate ill will. Looking ahead, miniaturization, substitu- tion, and advanced electronics manufactur- ing techniques will likely further reduce the al- ready low levels of precious metals in key com- ponents, putting a further squeeze on the re- cycling industry. This means that while there are a variety of advanced recovery processes available or under development for precious, base, and rare earth metals—proven methods of recovery—and refining will likely continue to predominate for the foreseeable future. Recycling Overview Whatever the prevailing value of the un- derlying metals, electronic manufacturers of- ten want to reduce the volume or bundle their scrap. Some recyclers offer one-stop services and may shred e-scrap on site before hauling it to another downstream vendor. On-site shred- ding can be advantageous for volume reduc- tion to lower transportation costs and destroy intellectual property. However, it can make re- covery of targeted PM components more diffi- cult if not impossible. Closed-box services can offer an alternative with shipments directly to a PM recovery operation. Locked-box servic- es go a step further with the secure shipment of high-value items. Secure transit can be ac- complished through the use of seals, evidence tape, or lockable containers.

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