Brazil is among the largest producers of electronic waste globally, with more than 1.4 million tons of this material produced each year. In this article we will give an overview on how e-waste is managed in Brazil.
The electronic industry in Brazil is growing exponentially each year, developing updated products in a period as short as every 6 months. For this, the country already stands as one of the largest producers of e-waste in the world, with an amount of 1.4 million tons per year, which is approximately 7 Kg per inhabitant. According to the UN, Brazil is the country that dumps the most outdated equipment into the natural surrounding areas in the world.
Electronics usually carry a large amount of hazardous materials in its components, which can cause serious impact on the environment if dumped improperly. Recent research highlights that the impact is not only environmental, but also economical, since most of these materials could be recycled and returned to the manufacturing process, saving energy and resources. Modern electronic equipment can contain up to 60 different kinds of elements some valuable, hazardous or both.
Recent policies have encouraged investment in the electronic recycling market. However the additional costs lower the interest of companies to recycle e-waste, since the products are already burdened with high taxes.
The Situation of Electronic Waste in Brazil
Since policies for waste treatment in Brazil are still recent, the majority of the population are not educated or aware of how to dispose of this type of waste correctly. Only 13% of e-waste is treated correctly. According to data from the Ministry of Environment, or Ministério do Meio Ambiente, 500 million of devices remain in the home unused.
It is estimated that each ton of processed electronic waste generates around USD 500. A small company recycling e-waste can revenue around BRL 500 thousand per year. This kind of recycling is available country-wide and it is often specialized in material fractions, which possess high added value. However, the process is too focused on a few companies and regions in order to provide a sustainable activity.
Brazil still lacks specific studies that bring precise data over e-waste dumping and management. The same applies to regulations, which are the same for e-waste as the general regulation applied to other kinds of waste.
Regulation for Electronic Waste Treatment
In 2010, the National Solid Waste Policy, or PNRS, was published, regulating the proper treatment for waste in general. Although it does not specify a directive for electronic waste, most of it can be applied to this type of material. Brazil is one of the few countries in Latin America that has regulations that somehow are applied to electronic waste treatment.
The PNRS states that every institution and organization is responsible for separating and properly dumping the waste they produce, which includes industry, commerce, cities and consumers. Following this premise, companies are investing in reverse logistic operations in order to collect their products at the end of its life cycle. Consumers must participate in this process, separating the waste and taking it to proper delivery posts.
The PNRS categorized electro-electronics and fluorescent lamps as special solid waste, which the producers are obligated to collect due to the high environmental impact it may cause.
Reverse Logistics Programs
Most companies in Brazil are already investing in reverse logistics programs, ranging from manufacturers and supermarkets, to universities and government organizations. The products collected usually go through the process of refurbishing, reuse and proper destination after the end of its life cycle.
Therefore, the confusion regarding the responsibility of each player in this process seems to be causing difficulties in the implementation of reverse logistics programs in the country. According to PNRS, the responsibility is divided between manufacturers, distributors and retail companies, who bring the product to the market. The policy also made it obligatory to return the packaging for electronics and its components.
The industrial park of reverse chains for reusable products in Brazil is typically spread throughout the country, and is mostly composed of micro and small companies, which use basic recycling processes. The country lacks enough capacity to process the amount estimated by PNRS, and most of the recycling procedures are still not available in the country, such as the processing of printed boards and plastic television housing.
Players in the Electronic Waste Market
There are a few major companies specialized in electronic waste recycling already in operation in Brazil. We have selected the main recyclers in the country:
Ecobraz: this company is specialized in collecting and recycling electronic equipment. The project is present in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, providing services for companies, consumers, manufacturers and government organizations.
Reciclagem Brasil: headquartered in the city of Cabreúva, in the state of São Paulo, the company manages electronic waste. Reciclagem Brasil is specialized in providing companies with a proper destination for their waste, such as computers, telephones and cabling. The company also offers solutions for reusing the electronic devices.
CEDIR: the CEDIR centre is a project created by USP, the São Paulo University, that manages e-waste and sends them to recycling companies. Some of the components are destined for reuse in social projects.
Coopermiti: this company is partnered with the Prefeitura Municipal de São Paulo, and offers management, processing and recycling of the electronic waste.
Descarte Certo: offers collecting and recycling services for consumers and companies, working with the largest companies in the country such as Santander, Zurich Seguros, Oi and Carrefour. The company treats a large range of products from cell phones and earphones to washing machines and refrigerators.
Estre: founded in São Paulo, the company recycles all kinds of materials and electronic waste. Estre’s operations include the dismantle, separation and recycling of equipment collected by its services.
Lorene: is one of the pioneers in e-waste treatment in the country and operates in the main Brazilian cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte. Certified by major environmental organizations, the company operates all parts of the waste treatment processes.
RecicloMetais: this company provides electronic waste treatment in all its stages, collecting and recycling most types of material and equipment.
Recicladora Urbana: offers reverse logistics and waste management for companies and organizations, and is located in the city of Jacareí.