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Tapping into Asia’s e-scrap gold mine

Singapore – E-scrap in Asia is a ‘gold mine’, the recent Electronics Recycling Asia 2015 conference was told by Venkatesha Murthy, ceo of Vans Chemistry. As most Asian countries collect only 5-7% of e-waste within the formal system, ‘proper regulation is needed so recyclers can get their hands on the material’, he said at the event in Singapore organised by the World Recycling Forum.

In China alone, approximately 230 million mobile phones are replaced annually but the country still has no official definition of ‘e-scrap’, leaving many business owners confused, Murthy lamented. Despite frequent discussion of the topic, ‘little has happened’.

On the plus side, China has started subsidising collection by paying a recycling fee to people who properly recycle their used mobile phones. Some industry players have voiced concern over this policy, said Murthy, as it could lead to illegal imports of used mobile phones from neighbouring countries.

A number of companies in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are capable of recovering as much as 98% of gold from e-scrap, Murthy remarked. Even so, ‘greater capacity’ for metals as well as plastics processing will be needed in the region over the coming years.

Conference speakers generally acknowledged that China has been acquiring state-of-the-art recycling technology from Europe of late but that too much may be expected too soon. ‘It takes time to find the right equipment for each process and to build a well-functioning system,’ explained an ECO Special Waste Management representative.

Delegates were informed that Japan is no longer looking to China to take e-scrap off its hands; instead, resource-poor Japan is increasingly asking China if it has material to spare.

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