Electronic waste recycling on the increase

March 5, 2013 at 4:11 PM
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SANTIAGO, Chile, March 5 (UPI) -- A new business collaboration in Chile will advance electronic waste recycling, an industry witnessing phenomenal growth in Latin America.

Californian firm Green Technology Solutions, Inc. said its agreement with Chilerecicla was part of a dedicated effort to expand its recycling operations to a booming Latin American market.

Major electronic companies, including Apple and Sony, earlier announced ambitious plans to turn a burgeoning problem -- Earth's mountains of electronic waste -- into a lucrative business opportunity.

Green Technology Solutions said its letter of intent aimed to finalize due diligence and begin negotiating deal terms with the Chilean "urban mining" major.

Chilerecicla was founded in 2009 and opened the first e-waste recycling plant in southern Chile.

Operating from its facility in the city of Chillan, about 240 miles south of Santiago, Chilerecicla specializes in the direct removal of electronic waste from clients' offices for transport to its central plant as well as the sale of reusable materials.

The work often involves handling of hazardous materials as well electronic waste, ranging from household and consumer items to aerospace instrumentation, the companies said.

GTSO Chief Executive Officer Paul Watson said the company had looked at Chile as an investment destination "for some time now" due to the extremely favorable market conditions.

The recycling venture received strong support from the government of President Sebastian Pinera, Watson said. The business was encouraged by Chile's dynamic recovery from the 2008 global downturn.

"The country has bounced back strong from the global recession and its fledgling recycling industry is open for business," he said.

Limited access to credit has prevented any single company from establishing a dominant market position in Chile's urban mining sector.

With funding and assistance from GTSO, he said, Chilerecicla could potentially emerge "as the leader of the pack in a nation where demand for e-waste recycling is growing at an unbelievable rate."

Industry experts say Chile has the advantage of easy access to cheap waste including discarded phones and electronics from within the country as well as neighboring countries including Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

The industry also appears to be thriving because it has fewer processes and regulations for e-waste management to cope with than elsewhere.

"Right now, much of Latin America's hazardous e-waste ends up in the trash," Watson said. "We're interested in turning that trash into cash and applying this company's best practices to our U.S. operations, as well."

Urban mining is a phenomenon with increasing competition. GTSO, which has headquarters in San Jose, Calif., has to contend with rival companies seeking sustainable waste solutions, including Industrial Services of America and Sims Metal Management Ltd.

Meanwhile, Sony says it is actively recycling electronic waste through operations across Latin America.

Apple says it is engaged in responsible recycling of electronic waste across Latin America and other regions.

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