As the e-scrap stream has grown and changed, both laws and certification systems are attempting to keep up.
Increased attention and resources have been put into recycling e-scrap globally, but keeping up with changes remains an ongoing challenge, according to two speakers at the Electronics Recycling Asia event, held in mid-November 2013 in Singapore.
“We’d like to achieve a closed loop—it’s our aspirational goal,” said Jean Cox-Kearns, the Ireland-based Director of Compliance for Dell Global Takeback, part of computer maker Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas.
“We’re using post-consumer plastics in our new products,” said Cox-Kearns, pointing to a success story. She also noted, though, that trying to take back only Dell scrap has been “difficult.”
Cox-Kearns said Dell is pleased with emerging e-scrap recycling standards such as R2 and e-Stewards, although the company continues to follow its own internal standards system. “Hopefully at some point, one of these standards will meet our standard and we can just switch,” she commented.
Cox-Kearns also expressed opposition to a broadly written export ban on pre-owned or pre-leased electronics. “It doesn’t have a good impact from an economic perspective [as] it takes away people’s access to technology” in the developing world, she remarked. “People need affordable access to technology.”
Clare Lindsay, a board member of certification body R2 Solutions, McLean, Va., said certification systems play a valuable role in helping to ensure that obsolete electronics are “properly managed” once they are collected.
She also expressed opposition to strict export bans for used computers and electronics, saying such laws created a “false distinction between OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] and non-OECD countries.”
Lindsay commented, however, that much of the non-OECD recycling activity “needs to shift from the non-formal recycling sector, and standards [applied overseas] are how to do that.”
In all parts of the world, added Lindsay, policies and investment activity should place “greater value on resource management rather than waste management. It’s about helping to encourage international investment and sharing best practices between the developed world and the developing world.”
Electronics Recycling Asia 2013 was Nov. 12-15 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.