Environment & Infrastructure - Business Overview
Piles of waste home appliances.
Metal resources have long played a crucial role in the development of society. As their depletion is becoming a major issue worldwide, Japan, a country with few natural resources, is drawing close attention. What is in focus are “urban mines,” a term for the stock of electronic waste, such as home appliances and electronic devices containing valuable materials. Waste home electronics, such as TVs, refrigerators, personal computers and mobile phones, contain iron, copper, and many other precious metals and rare metals. It is estimated that 1 ton of PCs contains more gold than 17 tons of gold ore. If these metals can be effectively recovered, the heaps of e-waste will be as much a prospective source of resources as traditional mines.
Urban mines in Japan are said to contain 6,800 tons of gold, which is equal to about 16% of global gold reserves, and 60,000 tons of silver, or around 22% of global silver reserves. Beyond these, some estimate that Japan has over 10% of the global reserve of indium (15.5%; 1,700 tons) and tin (11%; 66,000 tons), suggesting that Japan is one of the most resource-rich countries in terms of urban mines.
Tianjin Dowa Green Angel Summit Recycling’s factory for processing waste home appliances was completed in April 2011.
In Japan, the Law for Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances, the so-called Home Appliance Recycling Law, was enforced in April 2001. The law requires that TVs, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners should no longer be disposed of as landfill, but collected, subject to fees. Accordingly, mechanisms to recover useful resources from these four types of home appliances through recycling have been developed. Recently, such initiatives are expanding to cover smaller home appliances, including mobile phones, digital cameras and game consoles.
Sumitomo Corporation aims to take the advanced recycling systems of Japan overseas, primarily into fast-growing Asian countries. Our objective for the future is to start an e-waste recycling business for advanced resource recycling, which effectively collects home electronics disposed of by households, including not only TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioners, but also mobile phones and PCs, and factory production scrap materials (printed circuit boards, etc.) from electronics manufacturers, and appropriately processes these collected materials imposing minimal environmental impact.
Waste home appliances are dismantled with dedicated equipment and by hand. The components are carefully sorted into numerous categories.
In recent years, China has also been showing enthusiasm toward the recycling of waste home appliances. In light of recent economic growth, China is facing an urgent need to develop a mechanism for collecting and processing through recycling waste home appliances as more and more people buy home appliances or replace them with higher-end products. In January 2011, the country enforced an ordinance on the collection, processing and management of waste electric/electronic products, a Chinese version of the Home Appliance Recycling Law, which covers five items: TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and personal computers.
Taking the opportunity of the enforcement of the ordinance,in Tianjin City, which has long had a friendly relationship with Sumitomo Corporation, Tianjin Dowa Green Angel Summit Recycling Co., Ltd. was established in May 2010 as a joint venture between Dowa Eco-System Co., Ltd., which has considerable experience of e-waste recycling, and Tianjin Green Angel Renewable Resource Recovery Co., Ltd., which is engaged in the collection of waste home electronics. The joint venture started its operation in April 2011. It plans to improve its processing capacity to 800,000 units per year in the future.
In addition, Panasonic DADI DOWA Summit Recycling Hangzhou Co., Ltd. was established in November 2011 in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province as a joint venture among Panasonic Corporation of China (a wholly owned subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation), Hangzhou DADI Environmental Protection Engineering Co., Ltd. (China’s major recycling company), and Dowa Eco-System Co., Ltd. It aims to achieve processing capacity of 1 million units per year.
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