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China’s WEEE regulations offer opportunities

China / Australia – Environmental services and waste recycling company Sancon Resources says it will benefit greatly from China’s regulations relating to the recovery and disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
Sancon has been developing waste management and recycling operations in China since 2002 and claims to have the manpower, network and facilities capacity to aggressively expand its waste management operations.

Promulgated on February 25 this year and effective as from January 1 2011, the WEEE regulations are aimed at establishing a system for the disposal and recovery of waste electrical and electronic products, facilitating comprehensive utilisation of resources and circular economy development while protecting the environment and safeguarding human health.

In addition to establishing a licensing system for enterprises in this area, the regulations incorporate labelling obligations on manufacturers and importers which demand that relevant information – such as toxic/hazardous substance content and methods of recovery/disposal – are indicated on the products or in their manuals.

A dedicated government fund will be established for recovery and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment. Manufacturers of such products, consignees and their agents are required to pay fees which will go directly into the fund.

In 2006, China’s social electronic inventory included 490 million televisions, 220 million refrigerators, 260 million washing machines, 150 million air-conditioners and 80 million computers – a total of some 1200 million units, according to figures from the Environment Protection Department of China’s State Council and China’s National Statistical Bureau.

In the same year, disposal volumes amounted to 4.6 million televisions, 2.1 million refrigerators, 2.5 million washing machines, 1.4 million air-conditioners and 2 million computers. The total of 12.6 million units suggests an annual disposal rate of around 1%, but the National Statistical Bureau expects this proportion to grow to between 5% and 10%.

Recycling of these resources is still poorly regulated in China. Techniques involving burning and acidic erosion are often used, resulting in potentially severe air, water and soil pollution. The new law mandates the improvement of safe electronic recycling in China, placing responsibilities on manufacturers, retailers and recycling companies to collect and recycle WEEE in a responsible manner.

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