Recycling and life cycle analysis

I sent this reply to an email that we received from one of our customers.  Thought I would share it because there is a lot of good info here.

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Some of the answers to your questions are on our recycling processes page.

At this stage the countries that Ecotech Services is directly involved with in is only Australia.  Our downstream recyclers would be sending processed e-waste to a number of countries.  Note that exporting e-waste is covered by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal as well as a few other international agreements.  The countries that our downstream recyclers export to is documented on the EPA website.

We use reputable, well established organisations for downstream recycling and we expect that they comply with relevant legislation.  I have anecdotal evidence from about fifteen years ago that e-waste was likely to have been exported illegally.  I recently asked for auditing and compliance information from our downstream recyclers and the information was either not available or not forthcoming.

To answer your question as to where it all ends up is difficult to answer since the reverse supply chains for recycled materials is probably as long as those for the initial manufacturing of the items.  

The items we receive are either refurbished, stripped for parts, or stripped of recyclable material.  Items and recovered material are then sold with the waste going to landfill.

At present we do not have any external auditing of our processes.  It is too expensive, not required, and takes time and finances away for the actual task of minimising the environmental impact of e-waste.  See our  auditing and certification pages.

It is impossible to give a definitive and quantitative answer to your question.  To give an answer even approaching a worthwhile analysis would mean that we would have to either have a volume of e-waste that is simply not available to us at present (or indeed the whole industry) or we would have to charge our customers a ridiculously high price to recycle the e-waste

As you can see from the matters described above you simply cannot do an accurate full lifecycle analysis of your equipment.  In my opinion doing a full lifecycle analysis of e-waste in New Zealand at present is not a worthwhile exercise.

About Alan Liefting

Alan Liefting is the founder, a shareholder, and the Managing Director of Ecotech Services. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Ecotech Services Ltd.
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