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Business | August 30, 2012

E-waste market returns to growth

E-waste represents one of the fastest-growing sectors by volume within the global waste industry. Due to this fact and to impending legislative targets the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling market looks very promising during the next few years with plenty of opportunities for its participants across the value chain.

According to a new analysis by Frost & Sullivan titled "Global Opportunities in the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Recycling Services Market," the global WEEE recycling services market was estimated at $1,424.6 million in 2011. This is further expected to grow to $1,869.3 million in 2017 with a strong CAGR of 4 percent. The global economic slowdown affected the WEEE recycling market in as much as the prices of steel and plastics, for example, went on a steady decline, as did tonnages of e-waste in the market. As a euro-centric market, growth rates were severely impacted as key regions in Western Europe remained stable and it is only now that the market has come back to the growth mode. The WEEE recycling services market is essentially dependent on legislation to act as the prime mover for market momentum. It is therefore no surprise that Europe is the leading region globally owing to the power of the WEEE Directive and the presence of leading companies offering recycling expertise. EU Directives on WEEE, ROHS, and Eco-design have a definitive deadline and there have been serious attempts made by individual member states to adhere to these deadlines as well as establish local systems and procedures to meet the provisions as per legislation. The WEEE Directive requires all member countries to recover 45 tonnes of e-waste for every 100 tonnes of e-goods sold by 2016, with the recovery target increasing to 65% of sales by 2019 or 85% of all waste generated. The new member countries have an extended deadline of 2021. Another significant aspect of the revised WEEE Directive is the inclusion of solar panels, fluorescent lighting that has mercury and appliances that contains ozone depleting substances. Strong growth in the future is forecast as other global markets, mainly North America, are expected to grow aggressively to combat increasing waste volumes. Market momentum is maintained by a fast growth in e-waste volumes, which are required to be appropriately managed as per evolving legislative targets. Participants will need to take into accounts some key factors that may pose a threat to this growing market. Weak implementation of legislation is one of these. "One of the main reasons that the WEEE Directive has not met with unqualified success despite the significant amount of support it has received is the ineffective implementation of legislation," explains the Waste to Resource analysts at Frost & Sullivan. "Some of the key countries such as the United Kingdom, for instance, have had significant problems in its implementation in the first place due to the difficulty in assigning 'producer responsibility' as stipulated by the legislation." The economic slowdown has also had an impact on the industrial activity globally and brought about a sharp downturn in the prices of scrap such as steel and plastic, which in turn has negatively affected prices in the recycling industry for these goods. Crashing prices of secondary raw materials have turned recycling into an unattractive proposition. Finally, export of WEEE to Asia - where legislation and norms for waste management are lower - is a significant issue globally. Since standards for implementation vary globally, it is as yet relatively easy to move e-waste volumes from developed markets in the West to China and India where transboundary migration is a significant fact.
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