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Ifat China 2008: E-Scrap Recycling at the Top of the Agenda

The People's Republic of China wants to increase its standards for recycling computers, televisions, refrigerators, etc. It is gradually drawing up a legal framework for this. In addition, manufacturers of electric and electronic goods will be made responsible for disposal of their products in the future. Within the framework of IFAT CHINA 2008, which will take place in Shanghai from 23 to 25 September, the German Ministry of the Environment is planning a bilateral panel discussion about environmentally-compatible treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

According to Chinese estimates, there are between one and two million tons of waste electrical and electronic equipment in the People's Republic every year ‑ with an expected increase of five to ten percent annually. In addition to old domestic equipment, there is also a great quantity from Japan, Russia, the USA and Western Europe for recycling and disposal in China. A research group at Hong Kong Baptist University estimates that approx. 70 percent of all used computers, cellphones and other electric and electronic equipment to be recycled from the world end up in China. This is actually illegal, because the People's Republic forbids the import of waste electrical and electronic equipment in 2002.

These great quantities of materials are often recycled employing insufficient environmental, safety and health standards. Consequently, the Chinese government is planning to pass new legislation concerning recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment ‑ on one hand, by the creation of legal framework conditions, and on the other hand by setting up modern recycling centers.

As the Federal German Agency for Foreign Trade (bfai) reported, China is putting a lot of hope in the administrative rules for controlling pollution caused by waste electrical and electronic equipment, which took effect in February of this year. According to it, the Chinese Ministry of the Environment is drawing up a list of qualified recycling companies for waste electrical and electronic equipment, in which companies with a foreign investment share can be included. The technologies they use must correspond to national environmental standards, and checks at regular intervals are planned. In addition, supplying waste electrical and electronic equipment that has not been treated properly to companies not on the list is forbidden.

According to the bfai, an administrative regulation is currently being formulated concerning the recycling of household appliances. If it is enforced strictly, it will put a stop to illegal recycling activities, because it will stipulate precise details about the setting up of systems for waste collection depots, recyclers and waste disposal companies. The few currently existing, modern recycling facilities in China are still more or less pilot projects and are faced with an insufficiently organized system for collecting waste.

The question of costs is also supposed to be regulated by the administrative rule concerning the recycling of household appliances. Among other things, manufacturers of electric and electronic products will be required to contribute to covering recycling costs.

The German Ministry of the Environment is very interested in continuing and intensifying the existing collaboration with China in several areas of environmental management; this also concerns the regulated disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment. With respect to the size of the Chinese electronics market, the use of energy-saving and resource-saving waste disposal technologies in China will have global environmental policy significance. Because the German waste disposal industry has acquired an excellent reputation with respect to its orientation to innovation and technology, there are excellent business opportunities on the Chinese market for German companies involved in recycling business.

Following a Chinese-German workshop about environmentally compatible treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment at the beginning of this year in Beijing, another bilateral panel discussion is planned on this topic at IFAT China. The objective of this workshop is to expand exchanges between the two countries about the implemented legal and technical standards as well as the framework conditions for successful further development of treating waste electrical and electronic equipment to the greatest extent possible. Participation of high-ranking representatives of the Chinese government and Parliament Undersecretary Astrid Klug as well as representatives from the business world is planned at the workshop.



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