IERC 2017 – The Hills Come Alive, With the Sound of Electronics Recycling

The hills were alive with the sound of electronics recycling discussions as Salzburg welcomed the sixteenth International Electronics Recycling Congress (IERC) 17th – 20th January 2017.

The Austrian city is famous as the birthplace of Mozart and setting of “The Sound of Music”, but it has also been the annual venue of the IERC since 2001. The IERC, set up to debate the European Union’s draft Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, has expanded to look at global e-waste issues.

E-waste retains valuable and scarce materials, making recycling an attractive business with talk of ‘urban mining’ and a role to play in the Circular Economy model of sustainable development now in vogue. Concern about treatment of hazardous materials used in electronics, to avoid harm to human health and the environment, is growing across the globe.

The majority of speakers, delegates and exhibitors gathered in ‘Salt Town’ (salt from local mines was once known as ‘white gold’) were still from Europe, but joined by many from the USA, Canada, Japan, Latin America and China.

A thought-provoking keynote speech was given by US plastics recycling specialist, Mike Biddle. Starting with bleak messages of rising population, species extinction, temperature change, rising sea levels, resource depletion and possible wars and conflicts, Mike urged people to examine current consumption and business models to ensure we have a future.

The focus of the IERC has switched from the earlier congress concerns of “What do we need to recycle?” and “What legislation will be developed?”. Nowadays the IERC considers “How can we improve recycling?” and “Where can we recycle?”.  Sessions on electronics recycling and its place in the Circular Economy model were followed by focus discussions on critical raw materials compliance, refrigerator recycling, pyrolysis and robots in recycling and illegal waste exports. Industry updates looked at developments in Colombia, Australia and Germany.  Discussions on the effectiveness of the e-waste compliance schemes in Europe revisited arguments on improvements needed.

The issue of transfrontier shipment of e-waste was also discussed.  Speakers raised concerns at the continued export of e-waste from developed countries to developing countries under the guise of being for re-use, arguing this is dumping unwanted and difficult to recycle hazardous material.

Arrow’s Scott Venhaus, Director, Global Sales Enablement & APJ Sales, argued for a realistic approach that recognised that many countries producing e-waste lacked the technology and volume of waste to develop economically viable and environmentally sustainable recycling facilities in-country. Scott noted that Arrow encourages transfer of e-waste to recyclers who are compliant and follow best practices, even if this means trans-boundary movements. Arrow assesses downstream recyclers to verify legal compliance and safe and environmentally responsible electronics reuse and recycling is maintained.  To date, Arrow has succeeded in delivering IT reuse and recycling services in more than 120 countries.

Were you at IERC or are you planning to attend in the future? Email us at valuerecovery@arrow.com and let us know what topics peaked your interest.

Gary Griffiths manages global partner compliance for Arrow Electronics, ensuring that Arrow and its global partners comply with local and international laws, regulations, and best practices. A Chartered Environmentalist and a Chartered Waste Manager with more than two decades’ experience, Gary has expertise in data security and compliance.

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