#012 JIVA Materials is Rockin’ the Electronics Industry

The name  Jack Herring certainly has a ring to it – almost like the name of a rock band lead singer.  Jack Herring is the CEO of ‘Jiva Materials’, the first recyclable printed circuit board (PCB).  With electronic waste (e-waste) as the fastest growing waste stream in the world, an estimated 54 million tonnes is generated annually. The most common element that contributes to the e-waste stream is the printed circuit board, or PCB’s. During his studies at the Royal College of Art in London, he invented Soluboard, used to produce the world’s first fully recyclable printed circuit boards. It seems like Jack really is the rockstar he sounds like!

Coming up in this Circular Story

  • Why WEEE is the fastest growing waste stream in the world;

  • How this little flax flower,  is the solution for WEEE;

  • How stubborn the electronics industry is;

  • JIVA, the Entity of Life;

  • What you can do about your electronics waste.

Watch their Circular Story here!

WHAT IS THE FASTEST GROWING WASTE STREAM IN THE WORLD?

“I have always been aware of how important recycling is for the planet as it can only produce a finite amount of natural resources. While studying for my Masters in Product Design, I was given a brief by my tutor; to choose a waste stream and optimise it. I chose electronic waste—the fastest growing waste stream in the world, with an estimated 50 million tonnes being generated annually. One common part of the products that contribute to the e-waste stream is the printed circuit board, or PCB. 

The primary ingredients in PCBs are fibreglass and epoxy resin. Currently, the most efficient method for recycling the material involves shredding and incinerating it. I decided to re-engineer the material that made PCBs so difficult to recycle – the printed circuit board substrate. I wanted to make my version recyclable, non-toxic, and fully biodegradable.”

“I wanted to make my version recyclable, non-toxic, and fully biodegradable.”

My eureka moment…

“I had a part-time job in a school uniform shop, where I was responsible for running the embroidery machines. That’s where I got introduced to a unique material, a soluble film that we place on top of the garment to stop the process,, which led to my ‘eureka’ moment. I thought ‘Why can’t we dissolve our circuit boards in water?’. 

Simultaneously, I knew that flax is a great natural alternative to glass fibres usually used in existing materials.  I convinced my boss to let me use the t-shirt press after work. I had got my hands on some flax and water soluble film and with my fingers crossed, I layered them up and pressed them together. Looking at the smelly result, I knew I had invented Soluboard. With the support of my tutors, I was able to get a patent filed on the same day as my end of year show.”

COMPETITIVE PRICING STRATEGY

Jack and his team at Jiva are developing Soluboard that will directly compete with the market-leading materials used within the PCB industry. By using flax as the primary ingredient in Soluboard – it has a much smaller carbon footprint than glass-based fibres. The flax is formed into the multilayer bio-composite structure of Soluboard, giving the material strong mechanical and high performing electrical properties. Jiva aims to sell Soluboard at the same price per square metre as market-leading PCB substrates. Evidence suggests that the sustainable credentials of Soluboard would allow to recuperate the investment even further via savings associated with mandatory waste collection and increased taxation on less environmentally friendly raw materials.

What is flax? (WIKI)

Flax (Linum usitatissimum), also known as common flax or linseed. It is a food and fiber crop cultivated in cooler regions of the world. Textiles made from flax are known in Western countries as linen, and are traditionally used for bed sheets, underclothes, and table linen. Its oil is known as linseed oil. In addition to referring to the plant itself, the word “flax” may refer to the unspun fibers of the flax plant. 

Flax Flower

95% LESS CARBON FOOTPRINT

The organic structure of Soluboard means the non-toxic ingredients delaminate when immersed into hot water. This allows the organic fibres to be composted, the water to be disposed of using standard domestic wastewater systems and the electronic components to be recycled.

By introducing a water-based recycling process, carbon emissions will be greatly reduced and the recycling industry would see higher yields of precious metal recovery if Soluboard became widely adopted. Recycled metals can see up to a 95% smaller carbon footprint in comparison to newly processed raw materials.

Soluboard® will be integrated into the supply chain of customers who already offer take-back schemes or operate within the circular economy. This will therefore allow the manufacturers of the products to sell their old products to electronic waste handlers at a higher price and therefore subsidise the costs of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment disposal.

50 MILLION TONNES OF ELECTRONIC WASTE 

On a global scale, it is estimated that over 50 million tonnes of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) was produced in 2019. Small domestic electronic products make up the majority of this WEEE, with 8% of the weight coming from PCB’S.

The current PCB’s are constructed from epoxy resin and fibreglass;  the only commercial method of processing waste PCBs involves shredding and incinerating them to extract the precious metals within. This is a very inefficient process (substantial loss of materials) and it releases toxins such as cyanide, mercury and dioxins into the environment. The minimal financial gain means that PCBs are often not even removed from products, and going directly into waste. So high numbers of WEEE are illegally exported out of Europe in order to avoid processing it. It is estimated that only 17% of European e-waste is properly tracked for collection and recycling, resulting in over 17,500 shipping containers of e-waste being illegally exported from the EU every year.

How do you define the circular economy?

“The circular economy is the ability to maintain an element of value throughout the lifetime of a product. Some would argue that this should be from the beginning of a product’s life until it’s ending. If a product is truly circular, then there should never be an end.”

What does the name JIVA mean?

In Hinduism, the jiva (Sanskrit: जीव, IAST: jīva) is a living being or any entity imbued with a life force. The word itself originates from the Sanskrit verb-root jīv which translates to “to breathe or to live”.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBLE 

“Lobbying increased in multiple industries where PCBs are used as a result of the irresponsible disposal of electronic waste, heavily influenced by its high carbon footprint. A large number of blue-chip corporations are facing ‘Corporate Social Responsibilities’ (CSRs) of drastically reducing their carbon emissions and targets of being carbon negative by 2030 result in drastic changes in supply chains.

A life cycle assessment carried out by Jiva has suggested that a Soluboard PCB could have a carbon footprint that is 60% lower than the existing alternative. This saving would help companies facing environmental CSRs reduce their carbon footprint, with just one material being substituted. “

Circular Quote
of the day:

Recycled metals can see up to a 95% smaller carbon footprint in comparison to newly processed raw materials.

Jack Herring
Founder JIVA Materials

A STUBBORN INDUSTRY NOT READY FOR THE CALLING

Only 15.5% of the global e-waste generated is collected through national programmes where the highest quality of recycling and safe disposal of e-waste takes place. The rest of this is either exported to developing countries or ends up in landfill. In order for Soluboard to have the biggest impact, leading manufacturers of electrical and electronic products need to implement more take-back schemes and begin to take more responsibility for their products at their end of life. However the organisation of this optimised circular and reversed supply chain is often not yet defined. 

“Even in today’s world, not all companies have circularity on their priority list. The PCB industry has proven to be stubborn and adverse to change in many situations, even when it is progressive. Some industry professionals refused to even consider our material simply because of its colour! Legislative change forced by the hand of governments would greatly support the successful integration of Soluboard into the electronics industry. To address the problems associated with Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment, two pieces of legislation were previously put in place: the WEEE Directive and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive in electrical and electronic equipment. The last time that these directives were reviewed was in 2013.”

“These changes need to be made much more regularly to account for the digital age that we are living in.”

In an ideal world of circularity, nothing would be waste.

All products would be taken back by their manufacturer and be recycled to produce more of the same – they would all be made of recycled materials and be 100% recyclable. Consumer products would have carbon-neutral footprints and those of the companies making them would be negative. All raw materials would be responsibly sourced and all plastics would have been replaced with bio-based alternatives. Manufacturers would mine metals from landfill and extract plastics from the ocean to undo the damage we have caused.

Say, we give you € 1.000 budget, what would you do to stimulate the circular economy?

Jack Herring: “I would make a donation to The Restart Project to stimulate circularity. It helps people learn how to repair their broken electronics, and rethink how they consume them in the first place. By hosting Restart Parties in the local community where the public can bring their products for repair, people are empowered to use their products for longer in order to reduce waste.”

What a rockstar! Thanks Jack.

Things you can do yourself

Re-Use or Repair

When disposing of e-waste, the first two things to consider when you no longer need a product is whether it can be re-used or repaired. Very often, there is still potential for ‘waste’ products to be used again by another individual. Planned obsolescence means that many of our products are still fully functional when we are finished using them. There are a number of organisations that members of local communities can capitalise on such as the Restart Project where broken products can be brought for repair.

Recovery

The next best solution would be to arrange a formal collection. These activities fall under the requirements of national e-waste legislation, in which e-waste is collected by designated organisations, producers or the government. This happens via retailers, collection points or pick-up services. The final destination for the collected e-waste is a specialised treatment facility which recovers the valuable materials in an environmentally controlled way.

Recycling

The final option for consideration would be to dispose of any domestic appliances at your local recycling centre. The waste sent here is sorted and the functioning products sorted from the waste for resale. The waste electronics and electrical appliances will then be sent to the same final destination as the equipment that is formally collected i.e. a specialised treatment facility, which recovers the valuable materials in an environmentally controlled way.

If you could have a gigantic billboard with anything on it what would it say and why?

“It is time for us to take responsibility for our electronics and the impacts that they are having on the planet. Jiva will ensure that Soluboard is the catalyst in the much needed reform of the PCB industry.” –

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Circular Quote of the Day

Do something that makes your kids proud.

Dr. Sebastian Porkert, Founder ECOFARIO

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