Sinctronics has applied the concept of a circular economy to the Brazilian electronics sector, going through multiple stages of R&D iteration to push the boundaries of its closed loop activities.
After bolstering capacity and understanding of the circular economy and an intensive R&D effort, Sinctronics can now provide the infrastructure and technology to collect and transform electronic waste into raw materials and components for new products.
As a business unit of global electronics manufacturer Flex, Sinctronics offers the first integrated ecosystem solution applying the concept of a circular economy to the electronics market in Brazil. After bolstering capacity and understanding of the circular economy and an intensive R&D effort, Sinctronics can now provide the infrastructure and technology to collect and transform electronic waste into raw materials and components for new products.
Flex set its sights on a circular economy in order to create a more comprehensive offering to OEMs, and as such began designing the ecosystem required for material recovery within client supply chains. This involved identifying the reverse logistics pillars required for the return of products to Sinctronics for recycling and reinsertion.
Flex had the manufacturing expertise and capabilities necessary to turn the idea of a circular economy for electronics in Brazil into a reality. Being a leading player in the electronics space, it could utilise intimate knowledge of manufacturing to dismantle equipment and feed its own supply chain. Respecting the need for independence and recognising that an organisation guided by creativity needs to innovate without restrictions or limitations, Sinctronics was created. The plan was to develop a complete ecosystem built on four pillars: reverse logistics, recycling facilities, research and development, and reverse supply chains.
The manufacturing of the future has already begun, and it has the potential to reduce the impact on the environment, create jobs and wealth at the same time.
This involved a significant engagement and capacity building effort. Internal processes needed to be created, new knowledge acquired and new training programmes developed around the circular economy. To find the best collaboration opportunities, the company brought suppliers closer to align on values and ensure they understood the direction in which Sinctronics was heading. Customers were another vital stakeholder to get on board, and the team worked both promote the circular economy, and in turn provided customers with assistance in communicating the concept further down the value chain. Finally, working with local government and universities helped disseminate understanding of circular economy; creating favourable environment for future circular economy activities.
One of the goals of the programme was to develop a closed loop for plastics recovered from electronic waste, and this came with challenges in materials purity and performance. For example, achieving a desired colour or durability can be difficult when handling a mixture of end of use materials. To overcome this, Sinctronics R&D performed at three-step acceptance process, at each stage pushing the capabilities of their materials reprocessing:
- The first closed loop was a notebook box handle, a product with low cosmetic and mechanical requirements
- The second closed loop was a door flag, a product with low cosmetic requirements, but mechanical requirements on par with virgin material.
- The third closed loop was a printer chassis, a product with high cosmetic and mechanical requirements
In closing the third loop, Sinctronics was able to achieve results believed to be impossible. Through the practices and processes, they were able to create a recycled white plastic for the client and gain approval for colour matching. The material mix is 94% recycled plastic and 6% master to assist with colour requirements. Internal feedback loops, strict regulation creation by the laboratory and adherence to implemented processes resulted in a 10-month journey to accomplish this achievement.
Through Sinctronics’ circular economy programme, 97% of recovered material is now returned directly into the supply chain, with some being fed back into Flex products, and materials such as metals joining other supply chains. Through the investment in reverse logistics, Sinctronics can reduce client costs by up to 30% and speed up collection times by 50%.