The Future of Electronic Waste (.PDF Download)

Aug. 28, 2017
The Future of Electronic Waste (.PDF Download)

Japan is a small, island nation, but its efforts in electronic waste recycling are attracting international attention. Could the United States learn from the Japanese model? With a population of more than 127 million, Japan recycles more than 2 million tons of electronic waste annually. America only recycles about 679,000 tons annually, and that figure doesn’t include a large portion of electronics such as televisions, DVD and VCR players, and related TV electronics, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In the States, E-waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but 70% of overall toxic waste. In fact, according to the EPA, E-waste is still the fastest growing municipal waste stream. Not only is electronic waste a major environmental problem, it contains valuable resources that could generate revenue and be used again. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals, such as gold and silver. Americans dump phones containing more than $60 million in gold and silver each year!

The Japanese model has also attracted the attention of Russia, as this nation seeks to launch more significant national recycling efforts. President Vladimir Putin is calling 2017 “The Year of Ecology,” and has stated that improved recycling is a top priority. In fact, Russia hosted the 2nd Congress of Eurasian WEEE Solutions in Moscow this past March.

The Congress, which is part of the Moscow International Recycling Expo, is a platform where those in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) are able to discuss opportunities, solutions, and challenges within the recycling industry, as well as network and develop relationships with recyclers, producers, scientists, regulators, and municipalities, among others key to the industry. The EAEU, which is comprised of the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia, is one of the fastest-growing recycling markets, generating more than 1,500,000 tons of WEEE annually.

Given Japan’s success, and key interest by nations such as Russia, might it not be time for the U.S. to consider other options when it comes to E-waste?


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