Japan’s import of e-waste such as electronic substrates, which amounted to 9,071 tons in March, has remained at high level over the past two years. In 2014, 122,609 tons of e-waste were imported to Japan, which indicates strong demand for e-waste in Japan and overseas suppliers’ aggressive shipment for Japan due to high collection rate of gold and silver in the domestic copper smelters which purchase the imported material mainly.
The vast majority of the e-waste is imported from U.S., which amounted to 3,706 tons in March accounting for 40% of the total imported volume of e-waste. In the second place, 1,065 tons were imported from Australia. Import from Europe has decreased slightly.
Import from the Netherlands was 351 tons, down 36% from the previous month and 58% down from the same month the year before.
The decrease seems to be related to the increased purchases from European big smelters such as UMICORE, Boliden and Aurubis Group.
As the benefits of weaker Euro have been fully utilized within the EU, the lower treatment charge caused by weaker Euro has resulted in increasing EU smelters’ competitiveness. According to the sources from EU, however, it is said that more European small-sized collectors and dealers of e-waste have gone broke due to decrease in their handling volume.
A Turkish scrap company was bought out by Elemental, Polish major company. Also, there is a move taken by France Telecom to collect mobile phones itself instead of recyclers in France. In Europe, number of powerful companies stand by themselves. It is also said that some European traders have purchased e-waste from their familiar North Africa.
As mergers and acquisitions are common in Europe, the big dealers are expanding further. This phenomenon is not limited to e-waste; industrial disposal sector and recycling battery business have also seen a growing presence of mega dealers and mega smelters.
For example, the sales for recycling business exceeded 3 trillion yen in the French Veolia Group. The world’s largest secondary lead manufacturer, the German Berzelius Metal produces 1 million tons of secondary lead a year.
Getting back to the e-waste, a source from a Japanese import firm says that it is necessary to revise the terms in order for Japan to compete with European smelters with its weak Euro.
It is said that Japanese companies, which focus on material recycling, are performing poorly as reused component markets are popular in Asia. The price of power boards is around 30 to 40 yen per kilo in Japan, but it’s around $1,150 per ton (around 138 yen per kilo) in Asian markets, which is higher than the price of TV boards (around $700 per ton=84 yen per kilo) . Japanese companies are hard to access to them.
It is said that e-waste has been processed in Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia and Laos. More e-waste is also processed in Thailand, but the e-waste which used to flow from Thailand into Japan and Korea is said to have decreased due to licensing conflict and strong baht.