E-waste is the fastest-growing domestic waste stream globally, according to the 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor. Global e-waste generation has increased 21% in just five years, and will almost double by 2030.
With data extracted from the Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, pg 24
At the epicentre of this global waste crisis is Asia, which generated almost half of global e-waste (24.9Mt) in 2020. This number is only expected to rise as the region urbanises.
Yet, only 11% of e-waste is formally collected and recycled in Asia. The overwhelming majority is handled by the informal sector, often through open burning and landfills, which presents a massive environmental and public health challenge.
Few people know that e-waste is actually an ‘urban mine’. It consists of up to 69 elements that can be used as secondary raw materials if recycled. This includes precious metals (e.g. gold, silver, copper and platinum), critical raw materials (e.g. cobalt, palladium, indium, germanium, bismuth, and antimony), and noncritical metals, such as aluminium and iron.
By an estimate from the E-Waste Monitor 2020, raw materials (mainly iron, copper and gold) in the global e-waste generated in 2019 is approximately $57 billion USD. However, given current collection and recycling rates of 17%, only $10 billion is recovered currently.
There is huge potential in ‘urban mining’ as businesses explore innovative technologies to maximise the extraction of raw materials for reuse as secondary raw materials. At the same time, as regulations evolve and mature, there will be greater demand from government and waste producers for data-enabled waste management services to enable them to meet their waste goals. These conditions provide a ripe environment for e-waste innovation in the region.
|ACE Green Recycling
|ACE Green has developed a commercially viable and emission-free recycling process for Used Lead Acid Batteries (ULABs) and is working on environmentally friendly recycling solutions for Lithium-Ion batteries and other e-waste.
|End-to-end Waste Management
|Binbag provides e-waste management, EPR services, and data degaussing for companies.
It is a vertically integrated platform with company-owned recycling units and fulfillment.
|Botree Cycling provides processes and equipment for metal extraction, high-nickel lithium
battery recycling and mineral resource extraction of laterite nickel ore.
|EcoNiLi Battery serves OEM, lithium-ion battery collectors, and recycling companies by
purchasing, recycling, reclaiming, and/or refining the metals contained in their spent lithiumion batteries, mixed metal scrap batteries, black powder ‘nickel-cobalt mixture’, and
shredded spent lithium-ion batteries.
|End-to-end Waste Management
|ERTH (Electronic Recycling Through Heroes) is a social enterprise that specializes in
collecting and recycling electronic waste from households and businesses.
| Green Li-ion is revolutionising the energy storage industry with world-first deep clean
technology that fully rejuvenates Lithium-Ion batteries.
|Ka Da Recycling
|Ka Da Recycling is a mobile app-based recycling platform, that provides supermarkets,
factories, office buildings, hospitals, individuals and communities with convenient recycling
services, including e-waste.
|Karo Sambhav collaborates with companies/brands and enables them to collect & recycle
the waste related to their products. Karo Sambhav designs and implements Extended
Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes for electronic and plastic waste.
|Delhi-based Lohum Cleantech is one of the most thorough end-to-end battery solutions
providers in the country. It’s involved in mineral extraction which can be used to
indigenously produce li-ion cells, while also manufacturing lithium-ion battery packs for
electric scooters and 3Ws and repurposing existing battery packs by testing used lithium
batteries and redeploying them for their second life.
|Mint builds environmentally sustainable biorefineries for recovering valuable metals from a
range of ‘urban’ waste materials such as e-waste, spent lithium batteries and catalysts.
|Namo E-Waste Management
|Namo E-waste provides Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) services to help
producers meet their EPR goals.
|NEU Battery Materials
|NEU recycles lithium iron phosphate batteries using an electrochemical method. NEU's
clean and modular system allows for rapid scalability to capture the growing lithium battery
|PV Industries offers services for the collection, transport and recycling of solar panel waste.
They also offer solar system decommissioning services including recycling.
|Recyglo is the first-ever innovative recycling service solution in Myanmar. They provide
recyclable waste pick-up and recycling services to responsible corporations and
organizations, in addition to waste audit and secure document disposal services.
|Recykal is a business-to-business marketplace for waste and a provider of cloud-based
solutions to facilitate transparent and traceable material flows in waste, such as plastics,
paper and e-waste. Its platform connects waste generators, processors and other players in
the segment to address issues such as demand-supply mismatch.
|Reebelo is APAC's leading marketplace for refurbished & sustainable electronics.
|Saidemei is the developer of a resource recycling and reuse technology. The company
focuses on research and development of battery recycling and reuse technologies used for
electric vehicles and provides industrial re-production and resource recycling services for
waste power battery and raw materials.
|The Kabadiwala is an end-to-end waste management solution accelerating circular
economy through a technology platform that links each key stakeholder involved in a waste
management chain to transparently trace & increase waste collection, segregation, trade &
|Waste4Change is a social enterprise that gives services for responsible waste management
with a vision to reduce waste produced in landfills.
|Ziptrax CleanTech brings Closed Loop recycling for Li-ion Batteries, to regenerate and
utilize metals like Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel, and Manganese from the Spent Li-ion batteries for
powering future clean technologies.
*This list consists of startups identified within StartupX’s database and is not exhaustive here.
Across the 20 startups identified in the list, most fall under two broad categories: end-to-end waste management and advanced recycling startups.
These companies provide services for stakeholders across the value chain, including waste producers (households, bulk waste generators), waste collectors (informal waste pickers), waste aggregators and waste managers. Through their tech-enabled platforms and services, these startups enhance the efficiency, transparency and traceability of e-waste collection and recovery across the value chain.
For instance, Circulate Capital-backed startup Recykal operates a suite of services, including a digital waste marketplace for waste collectors and recyclers, Smart Centre solution for waste aggregators and an EPR management solution for waste producers.
In contrast to general waste managers that operate large, universal shredding facilities for e-waste, these startups specialise in e-waste treatment using their own proprietary technologies.
These include a combination of heat (pyrometallurgy), chemicals (hydrometallurgy) and enzymes (biometallurgy) in their processes. Alternative emerging technologies also include direct recycling for battery cathodes and electro-extraction.
Together with the USA, China and India are the three largest generators of e-waste globally. That is why unsurprisingly, more than half of the e-waste startups identified are based in China and India.
In India, enforcement and implementation of its EPR regulations remain a challenge, due to limited consumer awareness, the lack of standards governing e-waste management, and an inefficient and tedious reporting process. As such, the informal sector still plays a significant role in e-waste management. That is why most Indian e-waste startups are end-to-end in nature and develop solutions to integrate all the different formal and informal stakeholders across the value chain, optimising the system as a whole.
In Southeast Asia, almost all of the e-waste startups have been founded within the last 5 years – ERTH (Malaysia, 2018), Recyglo (Myanmar, 2017), Green Li-ion (Singapore, 2020). This can be attributed to the growing e-waste problem in the region due to domestic consumption, as well as illegal imports after China’s National Sword ban in 2017.
The region also hosts 3 out of 8 of the battery recycling startups identified in the list, namely Green Li-ion (Singapore), NEU Battery Materials (Singapore) and EcoNiLi Battery (Malaysia). This is aligned with the region’s ambitions to play a bigger role in the EV value chain.
Indonesia seeks to establish itself as a battery manufacturing hub in the region, leveraging on its vast natural resources of nickel, which is a key component of EV batteries. It has signed agreements with Tesla, battery giants CATL and LG Chem to build plants in the next few years.
Amidst the price volatility of raw materials such as lithium and cobalt, as well as their rapid depletion, battery recycling has also become less of an option, but more of an imperative. The growth of a battery manufacturing hub in Indonesia therefore also complements the nascent battery recycling industry in the region. This is because recycling facilities tend to be located near manufacturing plants due to the additional costs to transport them safely.
TES-AMM officially opened Southeast Asia’s first battery recycling facility in Singapore last year. Over the last 3 years, Singapore has also seen two new battery recycling startups – Green Li-Ion and NEU Battery Materials, which recycle lithium-ion and lithium iron phosphate batteries respectively.
While the battery recycling innovation in Southeast Asia is nascent in comparison to the USA and East Asia, it would be interesting to follow the region’s growth over the next five to ten years.
A total of USD$111.7M has been invested into e-waste startups, of which over USD$90M has been invested during the pandemic years (from 2020 to 2022) with advanced recycling startups raising significant amounts of funding.
Singapore-based battery recycling startup Green Li-Ion, for instance, raised 3 consecutive rounds from 2020 to 2022. Their latest round was earlier this year in April, a USD$11.55M Series A Round led by Energy Revolution Ventures. ACE Green Recycling and LOHUM Cleantech among others which raised funding during the pandemic.
In contrast, a GA Circular study commissioned by Circulate Capital details the impact of COVID-19 on plastic waste value chains across Southeast Asia. Similarly, the e-waste value chain has been badly disrupted during the pandemic due to lockdowns and manpower shortages. As such, there have been only two e-waste startups founded over the past three years – both of which are focusing on battery recycling.
While it is encouraging that investments into e-waste startups have grown during the pandemic, it is important to note that it has been sector-driven by battery recycling. There remains a huge gap in e-waste funding to support the growth of startups, most of which are still early stage and pre-commercialisation stages.
Furthermore, it is important to see investments during the pandemic as an exception, and not indicative of investors’ appetite for e-waste solutions. Following the inflationary pressures from the stock market crash and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the funding landscape is not as bullish this year. It will be increasingly difficult for e-waste startups to raise funding as the space remains nascent and unfamiliar to investors, who now have a lower risk appetite.
Looking broadly at the e-waste startup ecosystem, the majority of solutions operate downstream in the value chain. However, that is not sufficient.
A significant gap remains upstream, where electronic products should be kept away from landfills as long as possible, through refurbishment and remanufacturing. As of now, Singapore-based Reebelo is the only startup looking into this. They operate APAC’s leading marketplace for second-hand devices, creating a second life for old and discarded electronics.
In addition, electronic products should also be designed with recycling in mind, with involvement from recyclers. Partnerships will enable closed-loop manufacturing cycles where the design, recovery and treatment of e-waste are optimised and reintroduced back into production cycles.
It is clear that the e-waste ecosystem is still very nascent, with few startups developing waste-tech solutions and even fewer investors looking to deploy capital in the space.
However, the urgency of the e-waste problem cannot be overlooked. For us to achieve circularity for electronics, end-of-life treatment should not be an afterthought, but instead a key consideration across the value chain. It requires all stakeholders, manufacturers, recyclers and startups alike, to collaborate and leverage innovation to turn waste into a resource.
StartupX is glad to be part of this effort through HyperScale, to work with government, regulators, and corporates across the region to build up the pipeline of e-waste startups in this region. Tackle the e-waste problem with us, and reach out to join us on this journey.
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