Two of the biggest barriers for organizations refurbishing e-waste are the availability of sufficient quantities of good quality used equipment and a lack of legislation that encourages or enforces reuse, according to a survey of reuse organizations.
For the European Commission-supported survey, researchers interviewed senior managers from 28 nonprofit and for-profit reuse organizations located in Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe that handle information and communication technologies (ICT) equipment or large household appliances.
The top barriers relate to obtaining enough used equipment, the study found. Some of the reasons for this include current legislation that does not support reuse organizations by providing adequate financial incentives for and enforcement of e-waste reuse. In addition, reuse options are not being incorporated into collection and recycling initiatives. Furthermore, some equipment manufacturers do not allow their products to be re-used, to avoid competition with new products.
The second set of barriers relates to the informal and illegal disposal of e-waste. For example, the environment, health and safety could be harmed when informal collectors send e-waste to developing countries with inadequate health and safety controls.
The top four factors identified that contributed to successful reuse of e-waste were: a high quality refurbishment process ensuring good quality, reliable products; being in charge of quality control; accessing good quality used equipment; and ensuring that the confidential data of previous users was safely destroyed, as well as protecting the manufacturer’s brand.
Recycling and waste treatment can be a “gold mine,” perhaps literally, according to an October UN report that finds treated waste can be put to profitable use. For example, 1 metric ton of electrical and electronic waste contains as much gold as 5 to 15 metric tons of typical gold ore, and amounts of copper, aluminum and rare metals that exceed by many times the levels found in typical ores. As a result, printed circuit boards are probably the “richest ore stream you’re ever going to find,” the report says.
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