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Product coding would strengthen e-scrap industry

United States – Measuring e-scrap exports will remain problematic without a clearer way of categorising them, claims research specialist T. Reed Miller from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Around 35% of US annual e-scrap exports are destined for Latin America. ′The top three export destinations are Mexico, Canada and Hong Kong. The creation of trade codes for used products would enable us to explicitly track them,′ Miller told delegates at last week′s E-scrap Conference in Orlando, Florida.

While the concept is simple in theory, there have been long-running discussions over what material types should fall under which codes. One barrier was that ′several layers of approval are required,′ Miller noted. Another issue, added Jaco Huisman, veteran researcher and associate Professor at TU Delft, was that world trade authorities revise coding every seven years, but only after careful consideration. ′Change won′t happen overnight,′ he warned.

Huisman pointed out that the Netherlands has succeeded in documenting roughly 85% of e-scrap flow; this showed that 11% of Dutch e-scrap was exported for reuse. Illegal waste exports equated to less than 1kg per head of the population. Such a degree of transparency was ′something of a world record,′ he believed.

E-scrap generation had increased by 30% this year compared with 2012 figures, Huisman said. ′This translated into roughly 45 million tonnes of real e-scrap generation. Of this volume, 7.5 million tonnes comes from America, equalling 50 pounds (22.7 kg) per inhabitant.′

Latin America accounted for 8.6% of global e-scrap in 2011, Ofira Varga, analyst at 1CC Consulting, told delegates. An increase of 17.5% is expected between 2012-2015. ′Besides state and national laws, there are also laws at city level. Latin America is host to a huge patchwork of legislation,′ she said. However, Mexico had not a single certified recycler.

India, however, has just gained its first R2 certified recycler, E-Parisaraa. Company director Peethambaram Parthasarathy noted that input was predominantly computers (75%) and mobile phones (13%), with less than 1% of all material landfilled. Barnes Johnson from the US Environmental Protection Agency, charted ′remarkable progress′ over the last three years. ′Back in 2011, there were 100 R2 or eStewards certified recyclers. Currently, this is over 600 companies, spanning 16 countries,′ he said.

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