Upward trend in recycling e-waste

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 22 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: More people are recycling their electronic waste, with companies involved in such programmes observing an increase in the amount of recyclables collected.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), about 60,000 tonnes of such electronic waste are generated every year - equivalent to the weight of 160 Boeing 747 jets. Items include unwanted television sets, printers and computers.

Half of it comes from households and the rest from industry, such as information and communications technology equipment from industrial sectors.

Ms Siti Farhana Mahadi, senior executive for outreach and programmes management at the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), said: "With the increasing use and popularity of electronic devices in Singapore, more people need to know how to dispose e-waste properly, and to recycle them.”

“Although electronic waste constitutes an insignificant amount of total waste generated in Singapore annually, it is still important to ensure that e-waste is disposed of carefully because they contain certain components which can harm humans and the environment,” she added.

Consumers and companies alike have stepped up on this front. StarHub and recycling firm TES-AMM started a programme in 2012 to recycle electronic waste, called REcycling Nation's Electronic Waste (RENEW).

It has seen an increase in the amount of electronic waste collected. In 2012, the amount collected was around 2,700 kilogrammes. Last year, it went up to 8,700 kilogrammes.

Currently, there are collection bins in about 100 locations, and StarHub hopes to expand this to another 100 locations by the end of the year.

Mr Adam Reutens-Tan, senior manager of corporate sustainability and responsibility at StarHub, said: "We actually do hope that as more site owners take on the RENEW bins, the others will also be encouraged to approach us and ask for RENEW bins as well. There is no cost to the site owners.”

“As more sites take on a RENEW bin, hopefully we will have economies of scale and be able to make this a self-sustaining programme,” he added.

Under the programme, items collected are sorted and dismantled. Precious metals such as silver and gold are then extracted to be recycled as raw materials.

Computer makers are also collecting more electronic waste. Toshiba has collection points at its service centres for customers to drop off their old laptops and batteries. It has reported an upward trend in the items collected. This is also the case for Dell, which provides recycling services for customers to donate or recycle their old IT equipment.

However, the SEC said more can be done. It pointed out that e-waste recycling is still a niche market. Some companies also do not have adequate facilities, which means that electronics collected have to be flown overseas to be recycled, or sent to scrap yards.

SEC hopes authorities will assess the situation and, if necessary, encourage more players to enter the market.

- CNA/dl