According to a report from SBI Energy, in 2010 the global market for services around the recycling and re-use (R&R) of e-waste was worth close to $6.8bn, up from $6.2bn in 2009. Industry growth is expected to continue at least through the next decade, with collection services alone more than tripling by 2020. The ‘E-Waste Recycling and Reuse Services Worldwide’ report estimates that in 2010, China and India have the largest market shares, in terms of value, with approximately 24% and 22% respectively.
The businesses services covered in the report are all those involved in purchasing, refurbishing, recycling and selling used (working or non-working), obsolete or surplus electronic and electrical, including everything from computers and mobile phones to refrigerators and microwaves, as well as components and parts.
The report points out that a piece of electronic equipment can take a complex route to its final end. An e-waste collector or dismantler may have little or no knowledge regarding the destination of its products. But this situation is changing as the regulatory framework becomes more established (at least in some regions).
The report says that industry growth is being spurred on by the growing amounts of e-waste being created around the world as the use of electronics accelerates. But the good news is the increasing recognition of the value of metals, such as lead, copper and gold, and other materials that can be profitably reclaimed from e-waste and reused.
I guess industry growth is also the result of increasing regulations on e-waste. For instance, the EU WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulations are in the process of being strengthened and Australia has recently introduced its Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations on equipment collection and recycling.
The SBI report says that publicity of ‘backyard recycling’, with health and environmental consequences, has contributed to an increase in e-waste regulations and enforcement, as well as the scrutiny of environmental groups such as the Basel Action Network and Greenpeace. Consequently, ‘the e-waste R&R services market is being upheld to a higher standard, although this increased scrutiny has also hindered growth for many involved in the industry’. An odd comment - I guess the areas where scrutiny has hindered growth most are those where business relied on exploiting hazardous working conditions and damaging the environment!