SOLAR’s expertise in recycling of precious metals benefits the economy and environment
- SOLAR is Taiwan’s No 1 company for refining and recycling precious metal resources
Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports www.discoveryreports.com
As the world’s economic engine, with a rising middle class, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 40 per cent of the electronic waste (e-waste) generated globally.
Discarded smartphones, laptops and other outdated consumer electronics are a rich source of precious metals such as gold and silver. But e-waste also contains hazardous substances. With e-waste projected to reach 49.8 million tonnes globally this year, developing countries still lack the proper recycling systems to help prevent environmental pollution.
In Taiwan, Solar Applied Materials Technology (SOLAR) – the largest optical data storage thin film manufacturer worldwide – is using its experience in the business to help the environment and mitigate Asia’s e-waste crisis.
As one of Taiwan’s leading material process specialists, established in 1978, the company has honed its expertise in handling and producing precious metal chemicals and speciality chemicals. Today, SOLAR is Taiwan’s No 1 company for refining and recycling precious metal resources, which take place as part of its green management business division.
“The world produces more than 53 million tonnes of e-waste annually, and only 13 per cent of that is partially recycled – 1.2 billion handsets and more than 300 million different kinds of laptops and notebooks are disposed of every year,” says Ma Chien-yung, chairman and CEO.
A lot of people see such items as waste, but SOLAR sees the refuse as resources. “That’s why our aim is to recycle well – we must develop green technologies that will create a circular economy for the betterment of future generations,” Ma says.
“The name SOLAR comes from the Mandarin words guang (light) and yang (ocean). For 20 years, our ‘double E’ policy has focused on ecological preservation as well as economic development,” Ma says.
“We produce seven different kinds of functional materials from precious and rare metals – majorly gold, silver, platinum and palladium – which we supply to 10 different industries, including hard drives, consumer electronics, flat-panel display and semiconductor.”
Because resources are limited, SOLAR has developed circular economy solutions for these precious and rare metals to be able to sustain demand. Apart from resource recycling, SOLAR has a full spectrum of thin film product offerings – it holds 35 per cent of the world’s market share in thin film used in hard drives.
The company’s other core businesses include sputtering targets for thin film such as optical and magnetic data storage, optoelectronics, flat panel displays and semiconductors.
SOLAR is Taiwan’s largest domestic manufacturer of car chemicals such as brake fluids, coolants and anti-rust products. It is also the nation’s leading process manufacturer of precious metals for metal refining, tubing, plating, wiring and master alloying. It is the only company in Taiwan awarded manufacturing permits to recycle cyanide plating waste.
“We aren’t just a manufacturer concerned with buying and selling – we build relationships with our customers as a more technical- and service-oriented company,” Ma says. “Survival in this industry comes first, followed by sustainability, and then success. Everything related to our expertise in functional materials – from design and processing to recycling and refining – has been a key to attaining these pillars.”
Focused on the development in-house technologies, processes, manufacturing capabilities and equipment, SOLAR reinvests 8 per cent of its earnings annually in research and development.
Combined with its advanced inspection capabilities, highly educated employees and eight pilot laboratories, the company makes for a strong partner as it seeks to expand its market share in China through partnerships with semiconductor and flat panel display companies. “We aren’t looking for wealthy people or companies, but good partners in the industry who share our vision, attitude and passion, and fulfil the realisation of circular economy,” Ma says.