Doing what's right and increasing profits too
Feb 22, 2006
An issue that increasingly is grabbing the attention of national and international media is e-waste dumping by the US into China, India, Africa and other developing nations.
These stories are sensational, with graphic images of children 'cooking' circuit boards over an open fire to reclaim precious metals - you can almost see the toxic fumes curling around the innocent faces. Several global watchdog agencies including Greenpeace, the Basel Action Network, and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition are alert to the global threat coming from irresponsible recycling of electronics.
Sometimes these journalists' cameras pan out to a huge pile of computers, components, wires, monitors - a seemingly endless mountain of electronic junk. Just imagine the public relations nightmare if somehow the shot captured your company's logo among the debris.
Environmental legislation taking effect this year makes these issues more than just a public relations matter. Producers will soon be legally responsible for these electronic goods from cradle to grave. AER Worldwide's customers in the Silicon Valley are some of the most advanced and innovative in the area of environmental compliance in designing products that consume and disrupt fewer of the earth's resources. As many companies and a growing number of the legislators across the globe - and the general public - are concluding, the electronic industry must take responsibility for serious environmental impacts that negatively affect the quality of life for us all. Under many of these laws, environmental responsibility does not end even when the material is destroyed. With California's pending legislation and environmental compliance requirements being driven by the European Union, the circle of companies that are being forced to deal responsibly with their excess electronic components and equipment is growing.
One of the regulations that will take effect comes from Europe, the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. Recent studies conducted by Technology Forecasters Inc. (TFI), an Alameda-Calif.-based market research firm, indicate that fewer than half of the name-brand electronic product companies - especially those located in North America - were prepared to meet the requirements of the August 13, 2005 WEEE directive. In fact, there is an unsettling amount of uncertainty in the industry regarding the many facets and implications of WEEE on OEMs and EMS companies. Because of this uncertainty and lack of preparation, many OEMs still haven't realized that their ability to bring products to the marketplace will be greatly restricted when they are no longer able to sell products in Europe due to lack of WEEE compliance.
For example, only 47% of the respondents in a study conducted on behalf of members of TFI's Quarterly Forum for Outsourced Electronics Manufacturing and Supply Chain were familiar with the difference in the way the laws were being enacted in the EU member states; 49% are currently unsure how they intend to register for WEEE in each member state; and over one-third are unsure of what types of companies offer WEEE services.
In addition, the OEM respondents on the Quarterly Forum survey seem to be missing opportunities for increasing their companies' profitability, according to TFI researcher, Pamela Gordon. "The WEEE directive states that where the generation of waste cannot be avoided, it should be reused or recovered for its material or energy. Our research indicates that many OEMs are skipping over 'reused' and focusing on 'recycling,' and are thereby missing opportunities for increased profits for their companies," she contended in the report.
Compliance with WEEE doesn't mean meeting just one standard. Each of the 25 European Union states can have its own requirements. OEMs and EMS companies benefit from working with a company, such as AER Worldwide, that know the laws and can take care of registration in each state.
AER provides services to support e-waste end-of-life processes - and document those processes - to maximize economic return and prove compliance. Producers need to pay attention to what happens to their material after the tear-down, shredding and sorting facilities are through with it. They need an auditable trail and a disciplined program that is both global and verifiable. Too many well-meaning companies take their e-waste to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner, but don't follow what happens to the downstream waste. Often the copper products aren't disposed of properly, resulting in toxic sulfuric acid entering the atmosphere. The OEM and EMS companies must track the entire waste disposal and recycling process to ensure they are totally in compliance and not creating additional hazardous waste as an end product.
Compliance is good and necessary for the environment, but there can also be additional economic benefits from environmental compliance. One way is in reclaiming components from e-waste. That's a service that some recyclers, like AER Worldwide, provide. Asset recovery is in keeping with the WEEE directive to reuse waste and at the same time is a source of revenue for the manufacturer.
Those involved in designing electronic products, selling components and services to name-brand electronics companies, and managers involved in compliance issues can learn ways that recyclability and re-useability can be designed into products from the onset, maximizing the potential for profits. On February 27, 2006, at its headquarters in Fremont, Calif., AER is hosting the first in a series of Design for Environment workshops that are being held across North America and co-sponsored by TFI, SMTA and GoodBye Chain. These workshops will help North American OEMs, EMS companies, and all those facing WEEE compliance to meet compliance deadlines - and leapfrog the competition, realizing significant savings and doing the environment some good, too. For more information: http://www.smta.org/education/registration/event_registration.cfm
Andre Weiglein is President/CEO and a co-founder of AER Worldwide. Mr. Weiglein is responsible for managing the growth and providing strategic direction for all AER Worldwide processing facilities with the company mission being: to provide world-class electronics recycling, redistribution, reuse, and de-trashing services to the electronics manufacturing industry in all theaters.
Mr. Weiglein has sixteen years of experience in the electronics recycling and electronic component distribution industry. His previous experience includes Sales Representative of Micro Metallics Corporation (now Noranda Recycling) in San Jose, California; Sales Representative of Fox Electronics Corporation of San Jose, California; and Sales Manager of National Smelting and Refining of Santa Clara, California.
Mr. Weiglein received a Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Letters and Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1988. He was a team captain and a member of the two time NCAA Division One national champion team in water polo while at the University of California at Berkeley. He lives in Pleasanton, California with his wife of five years and their three children.
for more information visit www.aerworldwide.com