At the recycling yard of a Japanese major smelter’s recycling yard based in the area along the Sea of Japan, more-than-expected flow of the compact-appliance scraps into the yard is said to have caused considerable delay in processing overall. Not only the yard but also the corporate recycling department is seeing this matter as problem. Thus, some kind of measures may be taken regarding the excess flow of compact-appliance scraps to the yard in the time to come.
According to a source from the smelter’s supplier, the compact-appliance scraps are divided into two main groups. One is the large-lot shredded scrap of mainly low grades and the other is the small-lot with various items non-shredded scraps, which need longer processing time. What is common to both two groups is that the content rate of valuable metals is low. In fact, the source says, “I have never expected such a low content rate of valuable metals”.
Shredded scrap also needs processing fee (incineration cost), but it’s cheaper than that of non-shredded one as its metal value is concentrated by being shredded. Seasoned authorized operators seem to bring in these shredded scrap to the yard expecting for compensation rather than disposing of them as shredder dust.
It costs 60,000 yen/t to incinerate the non-shredded scrap of less than 5 tons at this yard. And, 15,000 yen/t will be added as penalty if it contains copper less than 15%. Thus, total processing fee will be more than 75,000 yen in the non-shredded small-appliance scrap with low copper content.
Operators who have some knowledge of recycling business would bring in scraps “pre-shredded at least” to avoid to pay for the disposal of shredder dusts or to expect to get some money. To bring in non-shredded scrap would merit recycling yards which can earn processing fee, but would cause a considerable cost to the operators themselves.
Behind the increase in non-shredded compact-appliance scrap is considered to be the fact that companies which newly entered the compact-appliance recycling business from other business have increased collection and shipment. An emerging company is said to have suffered a deficit of about 100 million yen in one year after starting operations. It seems to be caused by the increased processing fees at final recycling yards.
However, since some smelters’ recycling yards which accept compact-appliance scraps had welcomed the increasing flow before the Compact-Appliance Recycling Act came into force in April 2013, they had often been chosen as a processing site by authorized compact-appliance recycling operators when they made their recycling business plan requested to submit to the Japanese Government. Now, therefore, compact-appliance scraps are brought into such smelters’ recycling yards much more than expected and it has become clear that valuable metal content rate is lower than expected.
It is undecided how to review and restrain the excess flow of compact-appliance scraps at the abovementioned yard, but a savvy recycler says, “To restrain the flow fairly, raising the copper penalty (raising processing fee) would be the best way.”
Uniform Criteria for Sorting is Needed in Local Municipalities
After all, further improvement in sorting criteria for compact-appliance scraps seems to be necessary; to sort at the original generation points by the criteria such as “value (for compensation)”, “free of charge” and “inverse onerous contract”. Local municipalities want to keep selling for compensation. To speak of extremes, they are willing to sell them for compensation even as miscellaneous scraps exported to China. Such an extremely economic way seems to be the mainstream.
The criterion for sorting waste including compact appliances depends on each local municipality and is not standardized in Japan. Tokyo Metropolitan Government calls for bids in many cases regardless of whether they are of value or of no value. Meanwhile, Sagamihara City in Kanagawa Prefecture sorts compact-appliance scraps by 16 items focusing around higher grade scraps. In fact, a source from the recycler says, “There is no CD boom box, dryer, and electric pot, etc.” in the used compact-appliance collecting box in the city. The city’s earnest efforts to the compact-appliance recycling can be seen in the fact that the collecting boxes are installed at the appropriate points in the city where the collection rate could rise.
With more municipalities like Sagamihara City, we may see improvements in the quality of compact-appliance scraps which flow to recycling yards. In order to keep and utilize the compact-appliance recycling as urban mine to realize its basic philosophy, it also could be essential to reduce mismatches between the original generation points (local municipalities) and the final recycling facilities including the review of the Compact-Appliance Recycling Act.