Monday, February 05, 2007

China about Sated on eWaste

The China eWaste saga continues, but I think I can add a few more pieces to the puzzle. Let's start with demand; China is growing like mad, sucking up about 30 percent of the world's supply of minerals and other raw materials. It's these minerals that are of interest to us, as eWaste is full of minerals. Gold, steel, iron, copper, eWaste has it all. So this waste stream, except when it has hand grenades in it, is a good one to import and process; it's a waste stream that no one wants and they are happy to send it to China.

Now, we all know that the 10 million unlicensed Chinese who process a lot of this stuff don't do the best job at it; acid baths, open air burning, etc. And maybe they aren't getting rich off it, but the potential does exist to make big bucks off recycling. For example, check out Zhang Yin, who in five short years made 7 billion processing waste paper in China. So there is some profit to be made, people are getting rich, and there is definitely potential to turn the free waste stream into cash.

Up to now, I think that this has been fine with the Chinese. However, now I think we are going to see a shift for several reasons. One is that they know that the eWaste processing is causing serious health issues, and the burgeoning middle class won't put up with that. Two, they are coming out with Chinese RoHS, which has no exemptions and will require detailed labelling and reporting. I believe they will use these regulations to climb to the next rung on the ladder; namely, to selectively limits products coming into China for use by their new middle class. This will allow them to expand their line of 'clean goods', while simultaneously phasing out the old eWaste program. Essentially, they are transforming the amount of resources they need to build things into buying clean goods from other countries.

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