Surbine Recycling: Creating Value from E-Waste

Sunil Singh, CEOThe total amount of e-waste produced in the country is rapidly aggrandizing. On a global scale, out of 44.7 million tons of e-waste generated across the world, India produces two million tons of e-waste every year. According to various industry reports, by end of 2018, the WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) produced is likely to hit three million tons. E-waste sector growing at a CAGR 30 percent is going to touch 5.2 million metric tonnes per annum by 2020. The dismal reality is that only 5% of India's total e-waste gets recycled.

Recycling of electronic waste is the future. Typically, it is multiple times cheaper to refine metals from e-waste in comparison to extracting it from ores.

E-waste sector definitely is an under explored opportunity waiting around the corner for many entrepreneurs and investors. At the same time, it is also one of the most unorganized and disorganized sectors. However, the Government’s & (Central Pollution Control Board) CPCB’s strict regulations in place has shown promising developments in improving the condition of people involved in this informal sector and has paved a path towards safe, reliable, collaborative, and organized ecosystem. Most important of all, it has opened doors to endless possibilities.

Sunil Singh, Founder and CEO, Surbine Recycling, explicates “Overall, the health of the e-waste industry has been improved drastically because of the measures taken by the Govt. Today, it is impossible for any organisation to dispose e-waste to unlicensed vendors.” As a matter of fact, the Govt. has been instrumental in closing down the entire unorganized sector in India. Recently, a big operation was carried out shutting down Moradabad and Seelampur, the hub for informal E-Waste recycling. Others found flouting the norms had their licenses suspended. In addition to this, the new E-waybill under GST law makes cross border movement of E-Waste impossible for the informal sector. The ecosystem is changing rapidly in favour of the licensed E-Waste Recyclers.

Fostering Sustainable Innovation in E-waste Ecosystem
Surbine Recycling operating micro refinery of small capacity in the periphery region of Jamnagar is doing its bit to revamp the e-waste ecosystem. “The quantity of e-waste generated in India is phenomenal. It would be foolish to say that we can Recycle the all the E-Waste generated in India; but we are committed to do our bit,it’s a positive step towards a cleaner and greener India and there still so much to do.” says Sunil.

The eco system of E-Waste till now was ruled by the informal sector and lacked ethics, a lot of suppliers were duped. They were not able to get the right value because of their limited knowledge and understanding of the materials they sold. To ensure suppliers get the right value, Surbine Recycling has introduced a unique concept called the Alliance Supply Chain(ASC) model, where the suppliers themselves are the stake-holders in the recycling and refining rather than just a vendor.“We give suppliers the right value for the material. We go on a simple principle of sharing the revenue that is being generated
from Recycling and Refining E-Waste. Better the material, better every oneearns. It’s a win-win situation forging long term associations with the suppliers” exclaims Sunil.

" We Are The Future. Once Everybody Works Collectively Towards A Single Goal, The Chances Of Failure Are Zero "

The Big Picture – Changing Perspective of E-waste Export
For more than a decade, European Refineries have been pioneers in recycling and refining of e-waste and a lot of these materials were being exported from India to Europe. However, in the recent past, the Govt. has barred the export licenses. Resultantly, a lot of these large aggregators who used to send the materials to the refiners in Europe are stocking the raw material. In the hope that someday the export licenses will be revoked.

On the brighter side, this has opened windows of challenges and opportunities for many Indian companies working in the e-waste space. Sunil optimistic about the development says, “After all, it’s business. If you are getting higher revenue sitting at home, why would anyone want to take all the trouble of exporting it?”

Aligning strategies in place, Surbine Recycling has optimized the process by leveraging on the latest technology whereby the entire production cycle takes 20-25 days. And a week time to the sell the finished product. “It is no rocket science. We are in a better position than any other refiners across the globe, who takes minimum 120+ days to process the payment. Therefore, we are working hard on getting the large aggregators on board. It won’t be long before, we will be able to achieve this,” avers Sunil.

The Journey of a GREEN Start-up – Surbine Recycling
Founded in 2016, Surbine Recycling started its journey in a humble setting. The idea, however, was initiated way back in time when Sunil used to work for an engineering company in Dubai. As time progressed, he returned back to India to jump-start his entrepreneurial zest, where by he approached several financial institutions and BFSIs. There was no turning back for him. In the process, he met other partners, Pankaj Joisar & Sankalp Joisar, who later joined hands to setup a recycling and refining plant – ‘Surbine Recycling’ in Jamnagar, Gujarat. The rest is history.

Surbine Recycling was built from the ground zero. The support from private institutions (LEAF – GLS University Incubator, Ahmedabad), Govt. of Gujarat, Govt. of India and banks (City Union Bank) has been exceptional. The company is definitely a ‘Make in India’ and ‘Made in India’ success story.“We started from scratch. Everything was just on paper. We saw the whole structure come to life in front of us. Started with excavating the land, foundations, factory building, manufacturing the machines and Equipment, installation and commissioning of plant. Working long hours to keep the plant up and running, it was definitely worth the ride,” recalls Sunil, sitting in hisswanky office.

Initially, Surbine Recycling did face minor hiccups in terms of hiring the right talent. Learning from its failures, the company hired fresh engineering graduates, and trained them about the nuances of the production, technology and process. “Surprisingly, it worked!” says Sunil, virtuously.

Modern Alchemy – Making Value/Wealth Out of E-waste
In March 2018, Surbine Recycling – successfully started its operation to refine precious earth metals. The company produces of Gold (Au) with the purity of 99.9%, in addition to this, the company extracts other metals like Silver(Ag), Copper (Cu), Tin (Sn), and Palladium (Pd).
The credit goes to the management and entire team, who toil tirelessly adding value to the e-waste ecosystem. Currently, Team Surbine consists of 37+ members, which includes 9 engineers, accountants, support staffs, operators, and casuals. In terms of suppliers, Sunil says, “We haven’t lost any suppliers, till date. Our industry grows with trust. We provide complete transparency and accountability at every step of the process.”

Creating a Sustainable Future
A positive outlook towards innovation and efficiency, Surbine Recycling is already in the process of setting up Li-Ion (Lithium-ion) Battery Recycling Plant. As far as the expansion of business is concerned, the company has plans to set-up micro-refinery plants across India and abroad. Since the ASC is also in motion, many suppliers have been very supportive of the idea, and are gradually becoming integral part of it. Sunil positively concludes “We are the future. Once everybody works collectively towards a single goal, the chance of failure is non-existent.”

The Informal Sector – A Looming Threat to Humanity
In the unorganized space, most of the precious earth metals are extracted either by Aqua Regia or Cyanide Leeching process. Both of these processes are extremely dangerous and hazardous in nature. Aqua Regia uses a deadly combination of Hydrochloric Acid and Nitric Acid. The gases released in the process are extremely harmful. Also, the residues disposed into the open have adverse effects and contaminates soil, ground water, lake, river, and others. Cyanide Leeching, on the other hand, is a highly cytotoxic poison. People exposed to it for a long time suffer from serious health related issues.

Re-engineering the process, Surbine Recycling uses environmentally friendly techniques to extract high purity precious earth metals. The chemicals used by the company are all non-toxic and organic in nature. This make the entire process Eco friendly and sustainable.

With the intent to boost the growth of the industry, Surbine Recycling focuses on helping people working in the unorganized sector. The company is providing an alternative solution to these people, whereby they can trade their e-Waste with them and still make the same amount of money.

Optimizing e-Waste
Not only 'waste' costs enterprises money, but it also symbolizes bad design. Following the philosophy of ‘zero waste’, Surbine Recycling has shown exceptional engineering excellence in the recent past. The electronic waste like chips, keyboard, PCBs, and the circuit board is composed of 50 percent of plastics. Initially, the company used to pay to dump the residual plastic at the TSDF. Today, the process has been modified and the company is generating revenue out of plastics, where the company supply it as the raw material to manufacturers who makes boards out of it. “Nothing goes to waste. Everything is reduced, recycled, and reused at Surbine,” says Sunil, glorifying the success.

Boosting the Success story of Surbine Recycling
•Dr. Rajesh Asrani, Director and CEO LEAF(Leadership Entrepreneurship and Acceleration Foundation)

Dr.Rajesh plays a mentor role for Surbine Recycling. He has helped the company with the funding and research related work. As the CEO of LEAF, he helps young talent to work in such niche sectors. The E-waste space requires continuous innovation, and research work is a never ending process.
•City Union Bank, Jamnagar