China the world’s second-largest economy, producing 72% of the world’s electronic items. However, the country is in the middle of a recycling crisis as its population struggles to dispose of its WEEE recycling.
China’s approach to recycling is definitely changing for the better, following on from a speech made by Premier Li Keqiang earlier this month who took the opportunity to “declare war” on pollution in the country.
China is already working with manufacturers to recycle large electronic items, such as washing machines, television sets and computers, but it’s the smaller items of e-waste which are being missed in the big clear up.
As China’s affluent middle-class begins to grow, it’s only natural that they begin to aspire to the latest gadgets and gizmos. Many have piles of used technology sitting in their homes, because they have simply moved on and have no other way of recycling it. The only options are to sell it to disreputable waste collectors or simply discard them in an unregulated way.
This is a real problem, particularly because of the damaging environmental effects disposing of this waste is having. The batteries used in mobile phones and laptops contain large amounts of cobalt, nickel and copper all of which are having a negative impact on the environment. These metals don’t break down over time and end up polluting underground water sources. Over time, if the human body is then exposed to this waste it can trigger all kinds of diseases.
In an article published today on People’s Daily Online, it was revealed that the actual amount of small electronic goods reaching the end of their use every year in China is unknown, but estimates suggest that 11.1 million tons of electronic equipment is bought in China every year.
A UN report, entitled “Solving the E-Waste Problem Initiative” claimed that China had the second highest amount of e-waste per year, generating 7.3 million tons.
Researcher at the Energy Institute of the Shandong Academy of Sciences, XU Chongqing, told People’s Daily Online that the smaller WEEE items could prove useful. He said, “the content of cobalt in the battery is 15 per cent, far higher than the 3.7 per cent in the ore.” He also went on to say that precious metals such as gold, silver and tin could all be extracted from the circuit boards of phones.
At the moment, small e-waste recycling is a strictly underground business and the methods used to recycle waste are not as environmentally friendly as they could be. Strong acids are used to soak circuit boards, which let off gases, which are harmful to the environment and to those who work at these small businesses. The rest of the item is generally just dumped into landfill sites, where it contributes to the general pollution.
The Chinese government is doing it’s best to heed the calls from recyclers to support the disposal of small electronics. The People’s Daily Online mentioned the National Development and Reform Commission, who are currently considering adding cell phones, batteries, printers and copiers to the existing government subsidy.
Hopefully, China will get its act together soon and start recycling e-waste efficiently.
If you have e-waste, large or small, then get in touch with Recycle Technology and we’ll arrange a collection for your home or business!