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China Remains E-Recycling Destination

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Panelists at RECCON event urge continued shipping and cooperation.

December 5, 2005

China’s economy is on its way to becoming the world’s largest, and its hunger for the resources provided by electronic scrap will not diminish. That was a message offered by panelists at a session on the topic of U.S.-Chinese electronic scrap trade at the RECCON 2005 event, held in late November in Morgantown, W. Va.

 

Many of the speakers noted that the unsafe and environmentally unsound electronics recycling practices exposed by the Basel Action Network earlier this decade provided a source of legitimate concern. But many of the speakers also remarked that government agencies and manufacturers have reacted to the situation.

 

Carl Bauer of the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown noted that it takes considerable crude oil and mineral resources to produce the electronics now being manufactured in China as export goods.

 

And China’s production of those goods is not likely to ease, according to Rick Schulberg of the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development, Portland, Ore. Schulberg commented that China’s emergence as the world’s leader in the production of electronic goods will soon be matched by its emergence as the leading purchasers of such goods as well.

 

He added that there are signs that China will thus emerge as a catalyst for global re-design of such products to include greater attention to the sustainable use of resources.

 

Hongjun Zhang of the law firm of Holland, Knight LLP, Beijing, noted that China is also adopting Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling laws “in batches,” starting first with white goods but soon with computers.

 

Zhang also pointed out that China has tightened up its import registration requirements and while it still accepts shipments of used computers, they are supposed to be in working order.

 

Carlos Rovelo of the U.S. Department of Commerce noted that Latin American nations such as Mexico and Chile are becoming increasingly involved in a trade triangle along with China and the United States. Chile is valued for its copper resources while Mexico can serve as a manufacturing sector as well as providing alternative Pacific ports when U.S. ports are backed up or should they ever suffer a natural disaster.

 

Final panelist Victor Ng of Fortune Plastic & Metal, Jersey City, N.J., outlined his company’s triangular scrap recycling operations that include facilities in the United States, Mexico and China.

 

Ng echoed Schulberg and Zhang by saying that Chinese authorities are taking environmental stewardship seriously, and that Fortune is trying to set an example for other recycling companies in China to follow. “Burying and burning waste is not an option in the eyes of Fortune.”

While Ng is hopeful that Fortune’s recycling model can be followed by other recyclers in China, he also remarked, “The scrap recycling industry is like an ocean—it can accommodate many types of fish.”

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