Australia’s Sims Limited Zeroes-In on Metal Recycling And Circular Solutions

by | Nov 29, 2022

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(Photo: Scrap metal readied for recycling in the UK. Credit: Tony Hisgett, Flickr Creative Commons)

Sims Limited provides metal recycling and circular solutions for electronic devices after they have exhausted their useful lives. It also focuses on enterprise data destruction and cloud asset management. Meanwhile, it positions itself as a leader in renewable energy, specializing in gas-to-energy and waste-to-energy. It is based in Australia and has more than 4,000 employees, with 260 facilities across 15 countries. 

Sustainability is at the heart of the company’s business. Each year, Sims Limited diverts millions of tons of secondary materials from landfills. These discarded materials are sorted and then refurbished or recycled to make new products. Sims businesses are engines of the circular, low-carbon economy.

“By helping millions of tonnes of materials have a second life, Sims is directly reducing the need to extract raw materials from the Earth – avoiding environmental loss and damage and reducing the carbon emissions associated with extraction, transport and production of new materials,” the company says

Its achievements: 

  • Achieved a 31% increase in repurposed cloud storage units entering secondary electronic markets. 
  • Scheduled a route to net zero emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Climate Agreement; to become carbon neutral by 2030; and in the short-term, reduce their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 23% by 2025 as compared to their 2020 baseline.
  • Fulfilled goal to use more renewable energy sources, with 32% of the electricity used across Sims Limited’s facilities coming from clean fuels. It commits to using 100% renewable energy by 2025. 
  • Invested more than AU$160M in solutions to close the loop on metals recovery.

Where do your emissions come from, and how do you plan to reduce them? 

The primary sources of the company’s emissions came from electricity and diesel, which produced 41% and 53%, respectively. Other sources include natural gas. In 2022, its carbon footprint dropped by 21% compared to 2020, primarily due to executing new electricity supply agreements aligned with its commitment to using renewable electricity. Renewable electricity contractual instruments are driving growth, notably in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States, Australia, and Europe.

The aim is to reduce emissions tied to its operations instead of buying carbon offsets. It plans to cut emissions by decarbonizing its electricity supply to get to 100% green energy by 2025. It is not only purchasing renewable energy certificates but also advancing energy efficiency and conservation methods. 

To that end, the company executed renewable electricity agreements at 17 sites. Electrification is central to its solutions — something that replaces diesel throughout its operations. Indeed, diesel combustion contributed approximately 53% of the operational emissions tied to its mobile plants. “Where electric-asset options are readily available and are commercially comparable to diesel assets (considering whole-of-life operational costs), they are being adopted.” 

The company is working with its customers to understand their pathways to net zero — part of its eventual Scope 3 strategy dealing with suppliers. The most significant sources in this area are from the steel and maritime sectors. 

“The analysis at right which was prepared with FY21 data, shows that the 8.3 million tonnes of ferrous metal recycled by Sims Metal globally had the potential to avoid 13.4 million tonnes12 of CO2e emissions, compared to producing the same amount of steel from raw materials,” it says. “The scale of avoided emissions from the use of our products is nearly 100 times larger than our direct emissions footprint and 4 times as large as our value chain emissions.” 

Consider that 1 ton of steel produced from recycled sources reduces CO2 emissions by 1.5 million tons. And 1 ton of recycled aluminum saves 40 barrels of oil 

“In FY20, electricity made up nearly half of Sims’ emissions (48%), and as we electrify plant and vehicles, we expect our consumption of electricity will grow. That’s why we have committed to source 100% renewable electricity by 2025. Most of the remainder of our emissions come from the use of fuel, particularly diesel in our road vehicles and mobile plant. Over time, we’ll be moving to higher-efficiency, electric, or other low-emission options in line with our roadmap below,” the company says

How is Sims ‘closing the loop?’ 

The circular economy is core to the company’s mission, dictating how it operates. Through Sims Resource Renewal, it aims to ‘close the loop’ on more than 1 million tons of waste generated by the metal recycling business by 2030. The recycled products will also have value in the market. 

The progress: 

8.6 million tons of scrap metal for reuse in low-embodied emission processes and products recycled1 

— 2.1 million cloud units repurposed 

— 660,000 tons of municipal material recycled 

— Potential to reclaim 1 million tons each year of waste into quality products 

— less than 45 million of carbon emissions reductions in the last 25 years 

— Helping customers reduce scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and achieve zero waste

“The circular businesses in our portfolio enable their respective customers to meet their own decarbonisation targets and achieve sustainable growth,” says Alistair Field, group CEO and managing director. “In FY21, the 8.3 million tonnes of ferrous metal recycled with Sims Metal globally had the potential to avoid 13.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions when compared to producing the same amount of steel from raw materials.” 

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