Perhaps one of the greatest environmental threats that we face today comes from e-waste or electronic waste. According to a study conducted by the StEP Initiative, if electronic waste continues to grow at the current rate, annual global e-waste generation will rise up to 69 million tons by 2017. E-waste includes mobiles, laptops, TV sets refrigerators, and all other electronic and electrical gadgets and appliances which have reached the end of their useful lives. Quite a few countries across the world are reeling under the environmental threats posed by e-waste, particularly developing nations, which bear the brunt of rising global e-waste volumes.
E-waste has turned out to be a major problem primarily due to the lack of awareness among consumers, planned obsolescence, and frequent product upgrades, which translate into high discard rates, adding to global e-waste volumes. Also, the lack of appropriate technology, resources and infrastructure to handle e-waste in an eco-friendly and responsible manner, further compounds the issue. The situation gets even worse with developed nations dumping their e-waste across global e-waste dumps like China, India and Ghana, where more often than not, the e-waste is processed by informal players using crude and polluting techniques to process e-waste. In order to remedy the e-waste situation, appropriate solutions for processing e-waste in an eco-friendly manner need to be set in place, and consumer awareness about the necessity of recycling e-waste needs to be raised. However, that is easier said than done! In order to establish proper recycling setups, infrastructure, technical capabilities and capital are required, which developing nations seem to lack. One of the measures that can help in this respect is the application of ARF or Advance Recycling Fee.
Advance Recycling Fee – What is it?
Since consumers are as much responsible for the current e-waste scenario as producers, it is only fair that they also share the responsibility of proper disposal of their e-waste. One of the ways to help and promote proper e-waste recycling can be levying the ARF i.e. Advance Recycling Fee.
The Advance Recycling Fee is a tax that consumers are required to pay when they purchase any electronic product. It generates revenues that fund the otherwise nonprofit activity of recycling end-of-life, discarded electronic and electrical waste. The motive behind this tax is to get consumers to contribute towards the e-waste recycling industry and consequently provide them with better ways for disposing their used electronic products responsibly.
Advanced Recycling Fee and Proper E-waste Disposal– How it Works
The ARF works as a tool that makes both consumers and manufacturers participate in the recycling process. It provides incentives to recycling companies to set up more units, and employ environment-friendly recycling methods to process e-waste. In fact the funds received from ARF can give e-waste recycling a much needed push with respect to innovation and development of better solutions to handle e-waste – something that is quite essential. This could enable establishment of recycling plants that make use of innovative and disruptive technologies to recover resources like precious metals and rare earth elements from electronic waste and dispose e-waste toxins responsibly – thereby not only saving the environment from the polluting effects of harmful elements in e-waste, but also ensuring recovery and reuse of rapidly depleting resources.
The ARF can also be used to set up consumer e-waste collection networks, establish transportation systems and reverse logistics capabilities to allow for collection of end-of-life electronics from consumers and divert it to proper recycling channels. Such an approach could prove effective as a means of ensuring that more consumer e-waste is disposed in an environmentally responsible manner rather than ending up in landfills or in the improper e-waste processing setups.
According to a 2005 study published in the Environmental Impact Assessment Review, handling the rising volumes of e-waste efficiently in terms of finance and environmental impact is an intricate task. The study found that secured financing for the collection and recycling of e-waste plays a very vital role and ARF is an effective way to obtain and maintain the finances required for proper recycling of electronic waste. The study compared e-waste recycling in Switzerland to India. It shows that the Swiss had already implemented an advanced recycling fee, varying from a minimum of CHF 1 (Swiss franc) for small electronic products to CHF 40 for electronics as big as refrigerator, and how the application of the ARF gave impetus to proper recycling measures. The total ARF collected during 2003 stood at CHF 71.66 million. The amount collected as the advanced recycling fee went into funding collection, administration, transportation and recycling of e-waste.
For instance the study found that, in 2003, Swico Recycling (operated by the Swiss Economic Association for the Suppliers of Information, Communication and Organizational Technology) earned 33.66 million CHF, with total expenses for e-waste collection, transportation and recycling pegged at 34.93 million CHF. While in the same year SENS eRecycling earned a total of 38 million CHF and their total expense was 29.98 million CHF. These figures demonstrate that application of ARF can help boost proper recycling as well as provide recycling companies with the incentive to ensure responsible e-waste disposal. The study also found that due to the effective establishment of e-waste management solutions backed by ARF helped lower toxic emissions and occupational hazards associated with e-waste while also raising employment potential.
At a time when both developed and developing nations are facing the problem of increased amount of e-waste, the advance recycling fee can prove to be an effective device to make consumers equally responsible for disposing their e-waste as well as motivate recyclers to innovate and ensure proper disposal, set up more collection centers and recycle e-waste in increasing amounts.