A market study by ABI Research, “e-Waste Recovery and Recycling,” points out the dichotomy that e-waste represents. If handled badly it constitutes a threat to the world's ecosystem through contamination to the soil, air and water, while also exposing people to a multitude of health hazards. If treated properly, much e-waste can be reclaimed or recycled for future use and converted into a significant new revenue stream.
ABI forecasts that the worldwide market for e-waste recovery, i.e. the money generated through reclamation of materials from e-scrap, will grow from $5.7bn in 2009 to nearly $14.7bn by the end of 2014, a CAGR of 20.8%.
Market drivers include the increasing collection and recycling rates, better/more cost-effective recycling technologies and improved recycling infrastructure and legal framework worldwide as well as significant growth in electronics markets globally, particularly in developing economies.
Whilst the economic downturn, which impacted commodity prices and demand for recycled materials, shook the market, economic recovery combined with strengthening e-waste recycling legislation is expected to drive improved recycling/recovery in the next five years. The legal framework for e-waste recycling remains strongest in Europe, thanks to the WEEE directive, other non-profit groups such as the Basel Action Network (BAN) and e-Stewards Initiative are driving improvements in many other regions of the world, especially the US.
E-waste is an interesting case study on the pressures on all companies to become more environmentally friendly. Pressure from lobby groups and stakeholders for better disposal initially raised awareness and created some action. Better technology became focused on the reclamation part, meaning that there is money to be made from doing it properly, which helps tidy up the market. But in the end it’s legislation that has to force the issue, particularly for the times when the economics simply don’t work. It’s much the same path for reducing carbon emissions.