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Size is not everything in the new sustainable niche

They are not large companies, but micro-SMEs and SMEs that have made their way into the industry of recycling waste from electronic and electrical equipment. They have a common denominator: they are circular economy businesses that stand out for their capacity for innovation.

Workers of The Green Ant extract the raw material from the electrical waste they collect

Ignacio García is the founder of La Hormiga verde, a company from Villafranca de los Barros (Badajoz) dedicated to the management of electronic waste since 2019 and where not a single screw is wasted. “We are recoverers of raw materials”, affirms García. It has its own network of 400 micropoints in Extremadura where this waste is collected. «We also collect the discarded devices in the clean points of the municipalities and in the companies. Between 2,000 and 3,000 kilos of equipment enter each day”.

Last year this company managed 1,200 tons of electronic waste. Its 34 employees (32 of them with some type of disability) weigh and classify them. «They are disassembled to recover pieces of plastic, iron, copper, aluminium, brass, stainless steel… They are then sold. We generate a thousand kilos of iron every day, which is then melted down. And the motherboards of the computers we sell to a plant in Belgium». Thus they reached a turnover of 900,000 euros last year.

Ignacio García seeks to give added value to all these materials. “My interest is to extract increasingly valued raw materials. A printer casing as it is nobody wants it, but if I shred it I already have customers who buy that material. And if I grind it, I can create plastic lumber profiles to build benches and tables.”

Re-use

Different is the case of Revertia, a Galician company with eleven years of existence, dten workers and with two treatment plants, one in Vigo and the other in Madrid. Although they offer a comprehensive WEEE waste management service for companies, they are specialized in the reuse of computer equipment, that is, in giving a second life to computers, screens, motherboards… «Based on environmental, technical and economic criteria, it is decided what can be reused or what cannot. A cathode ray monitor consumes a lot of electricity and cannot be reused. Or very old equipment that its reconditioning is not feasible. Everything that has an outlet on the market is reused, after deleting the data and certifying it. What is not, is sent to recycling plants”, says Alejandro Lajo, managing partner of Revertia.

Images of the Galea Polymers plant in Burgos where plastics from electrical and electronic equipment are recycled

In an industrial plant of 5,000 square meters in Burgos, Juan Carlos Sánchez has built Galea Plymers, a business of recycling plastics from electrical and electronic devices where seven people work. «We buy mixtures of plastic -he explains-, we crush them and separate them by type. These processes are very specific and have a lot of technical complexity because some plastics contain toxic substances such as bromine and phosphorus, necessary for the housing of a television or a CPU to be resistant to heat. They must be decontaminated and then sent to an authorized manager. From what we recycle we obtain materials to make plastic parts that are used in electronics or inside cars”.

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