N2S wins Disruptor of the Year award for tackling e-waste

N2S Apprentices Emma Giles and Diana Mortoiu

N2S apprentices Emma Giles (right) and Diana Mortoiu (left) at work in N2S’s Bio Lab at its headquarters in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Andy Abbott

N2S won Disruptor of the Year, sponsored by the University of Suffolk, at the Suffolk Business Awards 2021. Managing director Steve Morris explains how the local biotech company is using sustainable practices to turn the tide of a tsunami of e-waste. 

N2S managing director Steve Morris

N2S managing director Steve Morris - Credit: N2S

N2S is a professional services company that uses biotechnology to recycle and recover valuable components from printed circuit boards when IT devices are no longer serviceable. The company won Disruptor of the Year, sponsored by the University of Suffolk, at the Suffolk Business Awards 2021. 

Managing director Steve Morris said: “To win the strongly contested Disruptor category is a great accolade for our entire workforce. We are thrilled to have been recognised as a game-changing business and much appreciate the positive message this sends to customers and the wider marketplace.” 

N2S challenges traditional, unsustainable methods for recovering precious metals, which involve incineration, acids and chemicals. 

“The bioleaching method developed by N2S and our Knowledge Transfer Partners at Coventry University is completely sustainable,” Steve explains. “This technology allows us to comprehensively support business and public sector organisations with cutting-edge circular IT solutions, enabling them to respond more quickly and effectively in meeting increasingly urgent environmental, social and governance goals and obligations.” 

N2S, which is a member of this year’s Future 50 cohort, was also runner-up in the Business of the Year category, which Steve says underlined a remarkable year for N2S.  

“We are delighted to be recognised for the work done by our company over the last year. It also crystallises our achievements in previous years. We secured significant new investment, achieved strong sales growth, created new job opportunities and attended COP26 at the invitation of DEFRA.” 

N2S specialises in extracting rare earth metals like neodymium, dysprosium and gallium from IT and telecoms circuit boards. These metals are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain and therefore more expensive.  

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“With government support, we hope the standards for recovering these precious earth metals will change so there is no longer an avenue to export them to refineries in the Far East and that they will be processed in the UK using sustainable methods and low-carbon treatment. 

“If we can recover these metals here, we retain the value in the UK economy and reduce the carbon consumed in the unnecessary movement of products. But it also allows us to get the metals back into the manufacturing process, which offers the opportunity for massive employment in the sustainability sector.” 

Left to right: Emma Wakeling, Mimi Moll, Michael Johnson (sponsor – University of Suffolk)

Left to right: Emma Wakeling, Mimi Moll, Michael Johnson (sponsor – University of Suffolk) - Credit: Matthew Potter Photographer and Videographer

The company has recently opened a biotechnology facility in Bury St Edmunds and will be opening a new recycling facility in Reading in March. N2S currently employees about 100 people, but the company is looking to employ many more by the end of this year.  

“We’re looking for field engineers, technicians, scientists, lab technicians and production staff,” Steve explains. “We provide stimulating, rewarding and secure employment for people from all walks of life in the fast-growing sustainability sector, and create significant jobs opportunities for the local region."

N2S has also launched an apprenticeship scheme accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

“We are most proud of the N2S staff and management team,” says Steve. “Despite Covid-19 and other challenges in 2021, they have delivered the highest revenue in the company’s history. As a long-established local business, we’re also immensely proud to be an active member of the vibrant Suffolk business community. 

“Overall, we are proud of making a positive outcome in extending the life of unwanted IT assets and disposing of unusable assets responsibly and ethically, while making a positive contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” 

For more information, please visit www.n2s.co.uk