International Copper Association (ICA) member, LS MnM Inc., is promoting circular practices in South Korea through its partnership with SK Networks.
Through SK Network’s MINTIT—a technology recycling program to recover and recycle copper from electronics (e.g., information communication technology; ICT)—the two companies are committed to promoting a “3R” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) approach to materials management. The partnership will center on recycling electronic devices, sharing research on recycling data and promoting recycling initiatives to the public.
LS MnM’s partnership with SK Networks is a step forward for the company’s ESG initiatives that promote copper recycling in electronics. As a 100 percent recyclable material, copper can be used over and over again without any loss of its physical or chemical properties. Due to its high conductivity, nearly 70 percent of copper is used for electrical applications or communications; one tonne of copper can power 100,000 mobile phones or enable operations in 400 computers. Despite the material’s circular properties and essentiality to modern technologies, only 32 percent of annual copper use comes from recycled copper. Recovering copper from electronic and communication devices will enable LS MnM to meet demand sustainably while reducing carbon emissions.
“Both the companies are sincerely committed to ESG management in their respective business areas, and this will facilitate our efforts to create synergy in the recycling industry and development of the circular economy.”— Tae-sun Choi, Vice President, Head of Raw Materials Division, LS MnM Inc.
As a first step, the partnership will focus on recycling 50,000 mobile phones collected by SK Network’s MINTIT, which has built a used phone distribution platform operating via artificial intelligence (AI)-based ATM collection points. These smart ATMs allow the public to dispose of unwanted mobile phones in a convenient way through ATM machines. The AI-based ATMs inspect and purchase the mobile phones from users in a matter of minutes, sending payments directly to consumers’ accounts. The cost of the phone can also be donated to MINTIT’s social programs that support children who lack access to modern technologies. By making the recycling and collection of used electronics convenient for individuals, MINTIT helps to close the gap between consumer collection and electronics recycling.
The partnership with LS MnM will ensure these collected phones are not sent to a landfill but recycled for their valuable material components. By recycling printed circuit boards (PCB) in the mobile phones, LS MnM will be able to recover important materials, such as copper, palladium, gold and silver.
LS MnM and SK Networks/MINTIT believe promoting the circular economy is essential to sustainable business practices and plan to increase recycling efforts in the future through the partnership. While the initial project is focused on mobile phone collection, the collaboration is set to expand to include other electronics equipment and electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
“As the synergy between the two companies has been confirmed through waste mobile phone recycling, more initiatives can be conceived to achieve both business growth and environmental value enhancement in more diverse fields,” and added, “We will together create a comprehensive collaborative plan in our pursuit of future-oriented and sustainable management.” —Yoon-eui Kim, Head of ICT Business Division, SK Networks
Promoting Circularity Through Industrial Symbiosis and Smart Production
The collaboration with SK Network and MINTIT is a familiar model for LS MnM. The company maintains multiple partnerships encouraging industrial symbiosis, or the use of one industry’s byproducts or waste by another. In addition, LS MnM has partnered and invested with leading U.S. electronics recycler and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company, Electronic Recyclers International (ERI). ERI has the capacity to recycle more than a billion pounds of electronic devices annually, servicing every state in the U.S. and maintaining a network of more than 100 facilities across 46 countries. Through the partnership, LS MnM provides metal recycling services to ERI after the electronics’ collection. ERI tracks its materials collection, and through AI-operated robotics and specialized shredder technology, it prepares the unwanted electronics for recycling at their zero-waste, zero-landfill facilities.
To enhance its smelting and recycling capabilities, LS MnM is developing the “Onsan Digital Smelter,” which will implement AI, big data and internet of things (IOT) technologies for more efficient and eco-friendly production. The smart factory system will connect the entire production process, enabling more efficient procedures, as well as optimizing the smelter to increase safety and reduce environmental impact at its operations. With these increased efficiencies, LS MnM will be able to support its circular partnerships with even greener operations, providing responsible and sustainable copper for green technologies.
About LS MnM Inc.
Headquartered in South Korea, LS MnM Inc. is a leader in the global copper and precious metals smelting market. LS MnM produces and supplies high quality basic materials using innovative copper smelting know-how. The company employs the highest level of technology while maintaining its status as an environmentally friendly business.
About the International Copper Association
The International Copper Association (ICA) brings together the global copper industry to develop and defend markets for copper and make a positive contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., ICA has offices in three primary regions: Asia, Europe and North America. ICA and its Copper Alliance® partners are active in more than 60 countries worldwide.