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Future of WEEE imports into China uncertain

Imports into China of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) will be changed for ever because of the country’s National Sword crackdown on poor-quality materials and illegal activity, according to Dr Steve Wong, president of the China Scrap Plastics Association.

Wong told the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) meeting in Hong Kong that the Chinese government’s determination to prioritise environmental protection would make it very difficult or even impossible to import contaminated WEEE scrap.

Standards were being rigidly applied and the flexibility shown previously to various types of recycled materials was no longer present, he said.

The BIR’s E-scrap committee has begun work on a study of existing research about global WEEE generation and flows, assisted by staff at Harokopio University in Athens.

The study will review existing reports and data on the reuse and recycling of household appliances and various forms of electronics; assess the quality of the data; and look at information by country and region.

The findings will be presented at October’s BIR convention in Delhi.

Last month two UK studies were launched on the flow of unreported WEEE

Goh Kian Guan, chief investment officer of China’s Chiho-Tiande Group, urged the Hong Kong government to devote more time to gaining an understanding of recycling and its potential to create high-end employment. “It is not a dirty business,” he said. “It can be clean – it depends how you do it.”

His company expects operations at its 60,000-tonne capacity WEEE recycling plant on Hong Kong’s Yuen Long industrial estate to begin by the end of June.

Shirley Kwok, an adviser to the Hong Kong Recycling Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the “major impact” on recyclers of a local regulatory change categorising printed circuitboards as chemical waste.

The licensing process for companies wishing to handle such boards was onerous and “very expensive”, potentially leading to business closures, she warned.

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