Proper regulation needed to boost e-waste recycling in Singapore: Experts

With more than 100,000 tonnes of e-waste generated in Singapore each year, experts say authorities need to take the lead to encourage recycling, and regulation should be the first step.
Angela Lim, Channel NewsAsia 18 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Proper regulation, including legislation, is needed to boost the recycling rates of electronic waste (e-waste) in Singapore, said experts, who added that efforts need to target small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector.

This comes as the Environment and Water Resources Ministry announced that it has launched a study that looks into having a national e-waste management system. The study will be completed around the first quarter of 2017.

E-waste like discarded mobile phones and computers contain valuable materials like aluminium, but also small amounts of hazardous substances that can pose pollution and health problems.

With more than 100,000 tonnes of e-waste generated in Singapore each year, experts said authorities need to take the lead to encourage recycling, and regulation should be the first step.

Said Mr Venkatesha Murthy, managing director at Vans Chemistry: "The key issue here is awareness. We do not understand what happens when the electronic products end their life.

"Extended producer responsibility and corporate social responsibility have to be in place so that these end-of-life electronics go to the right recycling. The third thing is legislation. Any success always goes with the mandatory law and regulation."

When it comes to corporate e-waste, one recycler said small businesses need to be brought on board. Unlike SMEs, multinational corporations typically have existing contracts with recycling companies to dispose of large amounts of e-waste.

"We concentrate on the formal sector, the large businesses," said Mr Scott Mac Meekin, chief operating officer at TES-AMM. "We'll deploy their new computers to them and take back their old ones at the same time. It's a very efficient system."

"If you look at the SME sector in most countries, they will tend to use their computers much longer and they'll use it through the cycle where there's no more remaining economic value left in it. It really is a recyclable play by that time and no longer a reuse play," he added.

Informal operators that collect e-waste and sell the most lucrative parts to recyclers for profit are another area of concern. Mr Meekin said this is because they discard the rest of the materials, contributing to incomplete recycling.

"I think as long as we have a clear policy that's enforceable, that's a starting point because that helps to obstruct the informal sector that may or may not follow compliance rules very well," he said.

For the wider community, experts said that part of the solution also lies in making it more convenient for individuals to recycle their unwanted electronic products.

- CNA/hs

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