South Australia gets nation’s biggest e-waste recycling plant

Global recycling company Nyrstar will now accept a wider range of e-waste products at its Port Pirie facility in South Australia.

Image: City of Sydney

The South Australian government has announced that Port Pirie based recycler Nyrstar is upgrading its facility so it can expand the range of electronic waste (e-waste) for processing in the state.

The global multi-metals business, Nyrstar, which has facilities operating in Europe and North America, will soon accept a wide range of electronic products such as printed computer circuit boards, cathode ray tubes (CRT), mobile phones and related devices.

According to the South Australian government, the expanded plant will also accept photovoltaic cells from roof solar panels, alkaline batteries and potentially other batteries such as lead acid and nickel cadmium.

It’s an important development for the processing of e-waste in Australia, because normally it’s either land-filled or exported.

If sent offshore, it can end up in countries without stringent environmental or health and safety regulations, leading to environmental contamination and hazards for workers recovering e waste components.

The waste and resource recovery industry employs almost 5,000 South Australians. The sector turns over $1 billion each year and contributes more than $500 million to Gross State Product.

South Australian Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Ian Hunter said South Australia is the only state in Australia that has legislated to ban e-waste from landfill.

“It sets our state apart from the rest of Australia – together with our Container Deposit Legislation, ban on single-use plastic bags and strong track record in recycling and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill,” Mr Hunter said.

He said Nyrstar’s expansion will improve the state’s waste processing infrastructure capacity and reinforce its leadership in waste management and resource recovery.

“It’s transforming its facility into a state-of-the art operation that will ensure material is recycled responsibly,” Mr Hunter said.

Minister for Regional Development Geoff Brock said while waste and materials management is a key environment issue, it presents an opportunity to contribute to the state’s economic growth and competitive advantage.

“The planned expansion of facilities like Nyrstar mean that we can recapture valuable resources that would otherwise have been sent offshore or landfilled, and create jobs here in South Australia,” Mr Brock said.

Nyrstar Vice President, Metals Refining, Bertus de Villiers said the transformation of the Nyrstar Port Pirie smelter to a multi-metals processing and recovery facility will also provide the technology to process e-waste, including printed circuit boards, television screens, mobile phones and alkaline batteries.

“Featuring proven state-of-the-art technology available in Europe, Asia and North America, the site will be Australia’s first e waste treatment facility, helping to reduce landfill and recover valuable metal to reuse in consumer products,” Mr de Villiers said.

He said the expected treatment rates of e-waste from 2018 is expected to be ~3000 tonnes per annum, increasing to >20,000 tonnes per annum as the facility ramps up, with a recovery of 98% of metal content.

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