Poor and inconstant communications are hampering the e-waste recycling industry, Robin Wiener, president of the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has told delegates to the recent Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) Convention in Prague.
She went on to explain that the BIR E-Scrap Committee had been discussing the need not only to “set the record straight” but also the possible means of achieving such a goal. Committee chairman, Thomas Papageorgiou of Anamet Recycling Industry SA in Greece, confirmed that further news on this matter would be issued in due course.
Eric Harris, ISRI’s associate counsel/director of government and international Affairs described the promotion of “good data” over misinformation as “one of the biggest challenges we have”.
In a Q&A session contributors argued that several recent reports – including from some well-respected bodies – contained damaging inaccuracies, most notably with regard to the volumes of e-waste reportedly “dumped” in India and parts of Africa.
Ross Bartley, BIR trade & environment director, noted that the organisation has already challenged a number of inaccurate reports on e-waste at the highest levels. Answering a question from the floor he added that the UN-EP Basel Convention had published its guidance on electrical and electronic waste and used equipment – in particular regarding the distinction between waste and non-waste – and concluded that BIR was bound to advise its members on applicable laws.
Specifically in relation to claims of large-scale dumping in India, E-Scrap Committee member Surendra Patawari of the Borad of Gemini Corporation NV, said such reports were based on “utter ignorance”, adding: “Import into India is a very difficult process.” The country’s e-scrap market was largely domestic in nature as imports were not allowed and exports were “extremely restricted”.
In other market reports, executive president of the China Scrap Plastics Association, Dr Steve Wong of Fukutomi Co Ltd spoke of a “complicated” situation in his home country, with recyclers suffering under a heavy cost and regulatory burden. At the same time, China was becoming less competitive in relation to some other countries in the region.
In the US meanwhile, Harris reported that some e-waste recyclers were “so desperate for supply that they are overpaying for their material”. An increasing number of companies were said to be looking to develop their business through diversification into new service areas such as data security and through maximisation of reuse, refurbishment and remanufacturing.
According to Papageorgiou a similar trend towards service provision can be observed in Europe. He went on to emphasise the changing face of e-scrap and most notably the shift from metals towards the use of other materials in electronic devices.
“We have to consider all the issues and turn to innovation in order to achieve sustainability for our businesses,” he insisted.
Papageorgiou also referred to a recent study from the steel industry which indicates that the administrative burden on the e-scrap industry has to be carefully evaluated in financial terms so that the sustainability of the sector is not threatened and allocation of resources through extended producer responsibility schemes or other means is more transparent.
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