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IERC 2023 Interview with Stephane Burban

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Interview with with Stephane Burban, Trader – Copper and Precious Metals Recycling at
Glencore

International Electronics Recycling Congress IERC 2023

 

ICM: Present Glencore and your activity in a few words.

Stephane Burban: Glencore is one of the world’s largest global diversified natural resource companies and a major producer and marketer of more than 60 responsibly-sourced commodities that advance everyday life. Through a network of assets, customers and suppliers that spans the globe, we produce, process, recycle, source, market and distribute the commodities that enable decarbonisation while meeting the energy needs of today.

Glencore companies employ around 135,000 people, including contractors. With a strong footprint in over 35 countries in both established and emerging regions for natural resources, our marketing and industrial activities are supported by a global network of more than 40 offices.

Glencore’s customers are industrial consumers, such as those in the automotive, steel, power generation, battery manufacturing and oil sectors. We also provide financing, logistics and other services to producers and consumers of commodities.

Glencore is proud to be a member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the International Council on Mining and Metals. We are an active participant in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Glencore recognises our responsibility to contribute to the global effort to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Our ambition is to be a net zero total emissions company by 2050. In August 2021, we increased our medium-term emission reduction target to a 50% reduction by 2035 on 2019 levels and introduced a new short-term target of a 15% reduction by 2026 on 2019 levels. 

 

ICM: What is the importance of electronic waste for your business?

Stephane Burban: We have been processing electronic waste for about 40 years. It is an important part of our business, but so is the processing of automotive and production wastes, as well as other Copper and precious metals bearing secondaries. As long as we can safely handle it, any recyclable feed is of interest to us. Electronic waste recycling is also one of the links to Glencore’s overall sustainability goals and one of Glencore’s many contributions to the circular economy. 

 

ICM: What are the main drivers and what trends and challenges do you see in the near future?

Stephane Burban: Main drivers to me are related to the circular economy and our ability to implement this concept to the full. This should create opportunities going forward and partially solve a number of issues related to sustainability at large. That said, this will also come with a number of challenges. From an industry perspective I believe great steps have already been taken in the right direction, the key is to ensure that those are aligned with OEMs’ needs which need to be further articulated. One needs to engage further in that direction and competent authorities need to facilitate the circularity if we are to reach the goals of carbon neutrality that have been set out. We need to produce better in the future, by that I mean produce with full life cycle analysis in mind and move away from the production linearity we created since the industrial revolution. I believe recycling is a key element to reach those goals.

 

ICM: What is Glencore’s strategy to overcome the challenges?

Stephane Burban: Glencore has set a clear ambition of achieving net zero total emissions (scope 1,2,3) by 2050 and this, I believe, is our biggest challenge going forward being the size company we are. We are making great stride in that direction and are adaptable. Applying a macro view to this concept and focusing on our recycling activity, I believe the key for Glencore is to get closer to its supply base to overcome challenges such as lower valuable contents in the material we process, tighter waste movement regulation which is not always well thought through. I do respect and endorse the goals targeted by waste movement regulation (transparency / accountability / ensuring that waste streams end up in the right hands for further processing), but I also sometimes question some of the regulations which create a hindrance to the concept of circularity. I do not support free trade for waste as it rarely equates to fair-trade, but I do question the approach whereby bona-fide processors which only aim is to comply with existing rules and regulations are given a harder time than waste traffickers. 

 

ICM: Who is the target market for your products?

Stephane Burban: Our products, all fully certified, are aimed at end consumers looking for high-quality input.  

 

ICM: How do you see the future for electronics recycling?

Stephane Burban: Based on what I communicated earlier and how little electronics is currently recycled, I strongly believe this industry has a great future ahead of itself. The key to this great future is to ensure that consumers at large realise the importance of circularity and that authorities take steps to enable it.

 

ICM: Why are you supporting IERC 2023?

Stephane Burban: Glencore supported IERC 2002 and all the other conferences since then. I find this conference of great interest in terms of its ability to gather many stakeholders of the recycling industry in general but also OEMS and lawmakers. IERC 2023 has a slightly different connotation to me given the travel restrictions imposed over the last two years for the reasons we have all had to live with, but also because I sincerely think that our industry is at the crossroad of many positive developments to come.

 

Source: ICM, December 16, 2022