Brazil passed new legislation to regulate electronic waste recycling after a U.N. Environment Program report warned the Latin American country could face serious health issues and degradation of its quality of life.
Several non-government and national voluntary organizations are active in Brazil to recycle electronic waste in two ways -- recondition items such as computers and make them available to those who cannot afford to buy them and extract the maximum number of components and parts from discarded gadgets for export or resale to domestic factories.
UNEP wants a wider global knowledge base to turn electronic waste into a resource. Its report, "Recycling -- from E-waste to Resources," said precious metals such as silver, gold and palladium and ferrous materials could be recycled for profit.
California firm Green Technology Solutions, Inc. said its collaboration with Chile's Chilerecicla would seek to expand electronic waste collection operations outside of Chile. Chilerecicla is rated as a profitable operation in Chile.
Efforts to replicate Chilerecicla's success in neighboring Latin American nations would be an ambitious project for both companies, GTSO Chief Executive Officer Paul Watson said.
A partnership would allow GTSO to help fund the expansion of Chilerecicla's e-waste recycling business, he said.
"As Chilerecicla's success shows, South America is ripe with market potential for these kinds of urban mining operations," Watson said.
"In order to capture a piece of this emerging market, expansion outside of Chile is a natural next step," he said.
GTSO also hoped to learn from Chilerecicla's experience of setting up profitable and productive recycling centers and collection services that it can apply to North American markets, he said.
Founded in 2009, Chilerecicla opened the first e-waste recycling plant in southern Chile. The company specializes in the direct removal of electronic waste from clients' premises for transport to its central plant as well as the sale of reusable materials.
In March GTSO signed a letter of intent with Chilerecicla as a first step toward expanding its recycling footprint into the booming Latin American market. Urban mining is key to GTSO's plans as it competes alongside major rivals Industrial Services of America and Sims Metal Management Ltd.
Most electronic waste remains underexploited and recycling remains a major preserve of developing and emerging economies rather than industrial states.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data showed much more needs to be done to recycle electronic waste in the United States.
Only about 25 percent of electronic waste was collected for recycling in the United States, about 38 percent of that coming from computers, EPA data indicated.
Analysts say a lot more electronic waste can be collected for commercial recycling and the lessons can be applied to Latin American markets. Likewise, Latin American success with the use of human resources in the collection of electronic waste offers lessons for U.S. and other industrial nations seen to be struggling with urban recycling.
A major threat still not tackled in industrial societies including the United States is the dumping of electronic waste in landfills or incinerators. In each case, the practice leads to toxic emissions.
In Latin American countries recycling operations have reported more success with isolating electronic waste before the rubbish is consigned to landfills.