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Illicit competition tainting China’s e-waste sector

China – Despite the ban on e-waste imports back in 2000, a large number of recyclers in China have gravitated to the black market. This is especially true in Hong Kong, which has industry-specific legislation of its own and boasts one of the highest cell phone populations per capita, SmartPlanet has reported.

‘€˜I would say that 99% of e-waste that goes to the mainland is smuggled in,’€™ observes Felix Chung, Co-founder of Hong Kong-based recycling business EcoSage.

According to Mr Chung, it is still extremely difficult to persuade people to use the services of companies which adhere to the advanced and legitimate methods for recycling the metals found in computers and mobile phones. Instead, they are tempted to hand in their unwanted electrics and electronics to those offering the highest price. Furthermore, several areas in southern China have gradually turned into dumping grounds for e-waste, Mr Chung asserts.

He adds that his is one of a handful of companies which use safe recycling methods for e-waste – meaning it is certified by Hong Kong’€™s Environmental Protection Department. According to Mr Chung’€™s calculations, some 100 tonnes of printed circuit boards from Hong Kong are recycled every month using internationally-accepted methods.

Recycling is becoming more and more of a challenge because certified players must bid for the material in competition with the growing group of recyclers operating in more illicit circles, it is argued. Their methods have put both the industry and the environment at risk, claims Mr Chung; he notes by way of example that they frequently put e-waste over a heat source to separate the electronic components or bathe discarded items in acid to extract the gold, silver and other precious contents.

‘€˜Out of 10 people, there is maybe one who cares about environmental impact,’€™ he laments. ‘€˜If you educate them, you might get three more on board. That leaves 60% who don’€™t care; for them, it’€™s only a matter of money.’€™

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