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Fri, Jan 18, 2002 - Page 2 News List

EPA calls for recycling of computers, printers

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT Old computers and parts haven't outlived their usefulness and can be turned into new products, environmental officials claim

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN KAOHSIUNG

While the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) is urging the public to recycle computers and printers, representatives of recycling companies said yesterday that printer manufacturers should treasure reusable resources and offer solutions to problems pertaining to the lack of qualified hazardous industrial waste handlers.

Since the EPA began to recycle used printers in April, the low recycling rate -- 10 percent -- has been attributed to the public's lack of environmental awareness.

EPA officials said that 1 million new printers were purchased in Taiwan in 1999 and 1.2 million in 2000. In the past seven years, the EPA estimates, more than four million printers were sold in Taiwan.

"Waste is actually a kind of misplaced resource," Chang Juu-en (張祖恩), the EPA's deputy administrator, said yesterday as he inspected recycling companies located in Kaohsiung County's Tafa Industrial Complex (大發工業區).

Chang said that most components of used printers -- such as plastics, electrical wires, chips, batteries and toner cartridges -- could be turned into usable metal and non-metal materials.

Shine Team Co Ltd (上祈企業公司), one of three recycling companies contracted by the EPA's Recyclable Resources Foundation, recycled an average of 2,450 used printers monthly between June and December last year.

Tu Kuang-yu (涂光宇), deputy managing director of Shine Team, yesterday showed reporters who paid a visit to its recycling factory the process of dismantling old computers and printers.

Since June last year, machines purchased from Germany have dismantled and broken up about 30,000 used computers, printers and monitors every month.

"Precious metals such as iron, copper and aluminum -- that are collected here -- are sent to smelters for further treatment, which can make them reusable," Tu said.

Tu said that reducing waste was a way to produce new resources. For example, recycled toner cartridges in printers are usually sent back to manufacturers for reuse or sold to plastics companies for use in new products.

"It's too bad that most printer manufacturers are reluctant to take back and re-use recycled toner cartridges due to their customers' habit of liking the new and loathing the old," Tu said yesterday.

Tu said that half of the cartridges in scrapped inkjet and laser printers are actually not damaged at all.

The concept of reloading cartridges has been promoted in some countries, such as Japan and Australia.

A recent study sponsored by the New South Wales government's Waste Planning and Management Fund shows that 400 remanufacturers in Australia replace worn parts and refill recycled cartridges. They said this process can be repeated up to 10 times.

Meanwhile, Tu said, an unsolved problem is the increasing amount of accumulated hazardous waste, such as fluorescent powder and TFT-LCD display monitors from laptop computers.

Each monitor, Tu said, contains about 0.3mg of fluorescent powder. Due to the lack of qualified waste handlers, roughly 280kg of fluorescent powder is temporarily stored at the factory site. Some of them do recycle TFT-LCD display monitors, Tu said.

The EPA's deputy administrator Chang said that the Cabinet is expected to soon approve a draft plan to establish an environmental technology park, where professional industrial waste handlers would be encouraged to run business.

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