E-waste Legislation and Management System in Asia

E-waste Legislation and Management System in Asia


The South Asian region has begun to recognise the importance of proper e-waste management. India is the only country in Southern Asia with e-waste legislation, although several other countries are considering such legislation. In India, laws to manage e-waste have been in place since 2011, mandating that only authorised dismantlers and recyclers collect e-waste. A manufacturer, dealer, refurbisher, and Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) were brought under the ambit of the E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016. The National Resources Policy (still in draft at the time of publishing) also envisages a strong role for producers in the context of recovering secondary resources from e-waste. 

In Southeast Asia, some countries are more advanced. The Philippines does not have a regulation specifically for e-waste management, but it does have a range of 'hazardous waste' regulations that cover e-waste as it is considered “hazardous” waste. The Philippines has formulated the “Final Draft Guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)”, which will hopefully be passed soon. Cambodia now has a specific law relating to e-waste management with the 2016 Sub-decree on Electrical and Electronic Equipment Waste Management (E-waste Management). This Sub-decree covers all activities regarding disposal, storage, collection, transport, recycling and dumping of EEE waste. Myanmar does not have regulation for e-waste, and e-waste has not specifically been categorized as hazardous waste. However, Myanmar has recognised the importance of hazardous waste management and is currently working towards a Master Plan and guidelines for it. 

China has national legislation in force that regulates the collection and treatment of fourteen types of e-waste (i.e. five types, initially, and nine more were later added). The regulated fourteen types of e-waste are televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, personal computers, range hoods, electric water heaters, gas water heaters, fax machines, mobile phones, single-machine telephones, printers, copiers, and monitors. Other countries in East Asia, such as Japan and South Korea, have advanced e-waste regulation. In Japan, most EEE products are collected and recycled under the Act on Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances and the Act on Promotion of Recycling of Small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Japan was one of the first countries globally to implement an EPR-based system for e-waste.

n Western and Central Asia, e-waste legislation advances are still very poor. There is some formalized legislation of mercury-containing lamps. However, for types of e-waste, collection, legislation, and e-waste management infrastructure is mostly absent. Some highlights are that the Kyrgyz government is developing new legislation introducing the EPR concept, which will also apply to e-waste. The government is currently developing a resolution aimed at addressing the management of e-waste. It contains a definition of this category of waste and provides directives for its collection, storage, disposal, transport and recycling. In Kazakhstan, the EPR for e-waste has been reflected in the concept for the transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to a Green Economy, adopted in 2013, which provides a basis for the implementation of “the principles of a manufacturer’s extended liability to cover part of the costs for collection and disposal of packaging, electronic and electric equipment, transport vehicles, batteries, furniture, and other used goods”. This is close to the EPR concept but does not have any licensing or financing mechanism to cover the transportation and depollution in the legislation. The inclusion of such licensing and financial mechanisms are currently under discussion.

Source: The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 

E-waste management system

The e-waste management systems found in Asia are rather broad. They range from very advanced e-waste management systems, such as in South Korea, Japan, China, and the province of Taiwan, to informal activities that coexist alongside the advanced recycling the system in China, but which dominate the e-waste management in the other parts of Asia. E-waste management in South Asia is largely based on informal sector activities for collection, dismantling, and recycling. Legislation in India has been a driver for the setting up of formal recycling facilities, and there are 312 authorised recyclers in India, with the capacity for treating approximately 800 kt annually. However, formal recycling capacity remains underutilised, as the large majority of the waste is still handled by the informal sector. There are 31 authorised PROs providing compliance services, including the collection and channelization of e-waste to formal recycling facilities, as well as the administration of awareness campaigns. Enforcing rules remains a challenge, as do other aspects, such as the lack of proper collection and logistics infrastructure, limited awareness of consumers on the hazards of improper disposal of e-waste, the lack of standards for the collection, dismantling of e-waste and treatment of it, and an inefficient and tedious reporting process. 

Current statistics show that China is the world's top e-waste producer, having generated 10.1 Mt of e-waste in 2019. China plays a key role in the global EEE industry for two primary reasons: it is the world's most populous country, so the domestic demand of EEE is very high, and it has a strong EEE manufacturing industry. Additionally, China plays a significant role in the refurbishment, reuse, and recycling of e-waste. Driven by e-waste regulation and the facilities expansion, the formal e-waste recycling industry has shown considerable growth in treatment capacity and quality; more than 70 million e-waste units are dismantled annually (China Ministry of Ecology and Environment 2019). According to the Chinese government, the actual collection and recycling rate is 40%, but it is important to note that this number only refers to 5 EEE products, as opposed to the 54 EEE products (UNU-Keys) listed in the international e-waste classification (Annex 1). The collection and recycling rate drops to 15% if all 54 products are considered. The informal sector has been dramatically declining, due to stricter controls from China’s new environmental law. The illegal importation of e-waste disappears more expeditiously because of the solid waste ban import policy. However, the increasing gap between fund levies and subsidies is imposing the distinct challenges for e-waste funding policy (Zeng et al. 2017). The Chinese Government has set targets of sourcing 20% of raw materials for new electronics products from recycled content and recycling 50% of electronic waste by 2025 (World Economic Forum 2018). Taiwan’s (Province of China) e-waste collection and recycling rate had reached 64% of the products covered by the legislation in 2018(37); this significant achievement is based on the 4-in-1 recycling system that focuses on applying the EPR concept to the recycling system. The mechanism has substantially improved under the supervision of the Recycling Fund Management Board (RFMB), which is under Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration’s jurisdiction. Taiwan has about 20 e-waste recycling facilities whose capacity is higher than the current domestic e-waste generation, so the e-waste recycling business in Taiwan is experiencing challenges. Japan relies on a strong legal framework, an advanced collection system, and developed processing infrastructure. In 2016, under the Act on Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances, Japan collected 570.3 kt through official channels.

In Central Asia, most of e-waste generated ends up in landfills or illegal dumping sites. In the Kazakhstan EPR system, some collection and recycling sites have been set up, but the capacity is not sufficient to manage the country's entire e-waste or to finance the transportation of e-waste to it. In the entire region, it is common that consumers send their discarded electric/electronic devices to small companies, which then dismantle them and reuse certain components. So, several governments took measures in order to address the issue. For instance, in Uzbekistan, progress was achieved from 2014-2016 by upgrading municipal waste infrastructure, and in 2017, the president launched a major five-year programme to improve waste collection, disposal, and recycling nationwide. However, no regulatory measures have been introduced specifically in relation to e-waste. 

In Western Asia, the countries range from very rich to very poor. Despite that, the e-waste the management system is mostly informal. In rich countries, there are large migrant workers that reuse or repair donated used-EEE from the richer households, but this is unique within the region. The United Arab Emirates have invested in a specialized facility located at the Dubai Industrial Park that has a capacity of 100 kt of e-waste per year. However, as aforementioned, most e-waste is largely uncontrolled and managed by the informal sector. In the middle and south of Palestine, there are three main landfills where e-waste is dumped, and the region is experiencing illegal imports of e-waste without having the adequate environmentally sound recycling infrastructure in place. According to an e-waste study conducted in 2019 by UNIDO in coordination with the Lebanese Ministry of Industry, a certain quantity of e-waste in Lebanon is also landfilled, and more still is exported as scrap, mainly by the informal sector, while a small percentage is dismantled and sent to abroad to recycling facilities through the formal sector. The study also revealed that e-waste recycling in Lebanon is currently limited because of high operational costs, particularly energy, and the complexity and potential hazards of e-wastes (UNIDO 2019)

Follow:  The Global E-waste Monitor 2020

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