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July 17, 2010

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E-waste recyclers fight an uphill battle

Electronic waste recyclers are hoping they can win the war against street collectors.

Residents are being encouraged to send their discarded mobile phones, computers and electronic appliances to waste recyclers instead of selling them to roadside junk collectors.

Junk dealers usually sell them again on the second-hand market or strip appliances of parts to sell and then throw away the parts they don't want.

"You can have your unwanted computers processed in a way that does not cause further pollution," said workers with TES-AMM Group, a privately owned firm that started up in 2005.

TES-AMM deals with 10,000 tons of e-waste a year, only one-sixth of its capacity.

Junked devices could be used to make a chair or other items as the plastics and metal can be separated.

Shanghai sees more than 200,000 tons of discarded electronics, known as e-waste, each year and the amount is rising.

One battery has enough contaminants, such as lead, to destroy 1 square meter of crop-growing land.

The city has already asked government employees and affiliates to recycle discarded computers.

Residents are also being given incentives as the city government allows discounts to those who return used electronic appliances when buying new ones. The returned devices will then be sent for recycling.

However, most residents still choose to either give or sell discarded electrical and electronic equipment to junk collectors.

"It's really a headache," said an official with the city's waste administration. "Roadside collectors can reach every corner of the city."


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