Understanding the sources of recycled tin: increasing transparency of recycled sources

Posted 08/14/2018 by Steef Nuijens, Global Director of Metals

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The electronics industry is often criticized for its lack of sustainability and environmental awareness.  A dialogue on responsible and best practices in the electronics manufacturing space is needed to help create a circular and renewable powered business model for the future.

To help address this, Alpha has combined forces with Fairphone to charter a study on understanding the sources of recycled tin.  Our hope is to bring some scaleability to reuse/recycled metals in the electronics industry and bring more transparency around the operational and sustainability challenges of sourcing secondary materials into your supply chain. 

Our analysis will form the basis for the development of guidelines to define responsible recycling, and will give more information behind materials coming from recycled sources and how said materials are integrated into products.


Alpha Solder Dross Recycling The supply chain of electronics, and the raw materials and processes used in their production, is a very complex interlink of different types of parties.  When one considers the full lifecycle of electronic products and the recovery of materials contained in these products, the picture becomes even more cloudy.

If we specifically refer to the supply of raw material, the market forces and a highly competitive environment makes it challenging to build material chains with sufficient transparency and stewardship to offer responses to today’s ethical and environmental factors.

When we look to the reuse and recovery of raw materials used in electronics assembly, tin scraps are generated during the production of tin (Sn), application of tin during the assembly of electronics, and during the recycling of the end of life electronics. Part of the tin scraps are reclaimed by informal recycling companies that might not adhere to acceptable, ethical, environmental and personal safety standards and could utilize recycling processes that might not achieve acceptable production efficiencies and result in otherwise reclaimable tin to be lost to landfills.


This research intends to build understanding on the lifecycle of tin in the electronics industry, with a focus on sustainability hotspots. It will consist of characterizing the main stages of tin processing and usage in the electronics industry while inventorizing/analyzing the main inefficiencies that hamper a possible positive impact (e.g. scaling recycled tin sources).

The research aims, as well, to provide recommendations/guidelines for improvements. The project will also look to identify opportunities for improving the transparency of the recovery and recycling of tin. The outcome of the project should enable the discussion for the development of guidelines to define responsibly recycled tin. Figure 1 provides the illustration of tin supply chain in the electronics industry below. The key stages (categories) are mining, smelting, converting, assembling, and recycling e-waste.

Definitions of the key stages along with research partner requirements are included in the Responsible Tin Recycling Project Scope.

Contact for questions and proposal submission:                                               

All enquires will be automatically sent to both Fairphone and Alpha Assembly Solutions.