International Electronics Recycling Event Discusses Free Trade

Attendance record broken at 12th IERC event in Salzburg.

February 20, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Conferences & Events Electronics Legislation & Regulations

The 12th International Electronics Recycling Congress 2013, organized by Swiss company ICM AG, took place in Salzburg, Austria, Jan. 16-18, 2013, and attracted a record attendance of 503 delegates from 37 countries, show organizers say. 

In addition, the event drew 53 exhibitors—including equipment manufacturers and service providers—to the parallel trade show.

The event is designed as an international platform for discussion of the latest developments and challenges relating to worldwide waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Among the topics of discussion in January was the issue of free trade of e-scrap. During the panel discussion titled “Free trade, fair trade or no trade,” in a poll of delegates, two voted for free trade, five for no trade (i.e. localized trade) and the rest for fair trade.

Panelist Jaco Huisman of the Netherlands said a study he conducted revealed that in 2012, worldwide 51.3 million metric tons of e-scrap was generated (compared with 14 million in 1992 and 24 million in 2002) and the volume continues to grow. Considerable volumes of this material end up in developing countries in Asia (notably China and India) and Africa.

The panel agreed that fair trade requires a level playing field on a global scale with regard to such issues as environmental processing standards and work and safety circumstances.

Professor Oladele Osibanjo of Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment also heads the Basel Coordination Centre for Training & Technology Transfer for the African region. He noted that free trade has come to mean “no rules and no limits.” As a result of globalization, he said, developed countries are dumping e-waste in developing countries. This e-waste usually consists of used IT equipment mixed with e-waste. In Nigeria, most imported e-waste ends up in dumpsites, where it constitutes 15 to 20 percent of all waste there. Further, Osibanjo said, Africa can currently be characterized as “economic boom, environmental doom.”

Jim Puckett of toxic trade watchdog group Basel Action Network (BAN), Seattle, similarly noted that free trade was a myth which comes which tremendous hidden costs such as air, water and soil pollution. “We should not externalize our e-waste costs by dumping materials in developing countries, but instead process e-scrap where it arises,” he said.

Puckett also received this year’s IERC Cowbell Award. According to the jury’s report, Puckett was selected “in recognition of his pioneering and breathless work to prevent the globalization of toxic wastes.” The Steering Committee of the IERC also honored his dedication to contributing comprehensive strategies for proper treatment of e-waste across the globe.

The 13th International Electronics Recycling Congress (IERC 2014) will take place Jan. 22-24, 2014, in Salzburg, Austria. For more information visit