Japan, ASEAN Eye ‘Urban Mines’ for Valuable Metals

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Collected small home appliances are seen piled up at a recycling company in Ota Ward, Tokyo, in January 2016.

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are expected to agree to cooperate in promoting technology for recovering and recycling metals from used electronic equipment, it has been learned.

They also hope to diversify the sources of raw materials by supporting the transition to a “circular economy” that reduces resource consumption and waste through the efficient use of products.

Participants at the Japan-ASEAN Ministers’ meeting in Indonesia on Tuesday are expected to agree to establish a circular economy initiative.

As a first step in the cooperation, Japan intends to send experts from Japanese companies to each country to teach people there how to disassemble PCs and smartphones and recover copper and other metals from electronic circuit boards.

The project will also look at analyzing what metals can be found in scrapped electronics and creating a mechanism for sharing information.

Copper, aluminum and valuable metals such as nickel are used in consumer electronics. Discarded devices are called “urban mines” because such metals can be recovered from them for new use.

In Southeast Asia, which is experiencing rapid economic development, there is concern about environmental pollution from scrap materials.

Japan hopes to improve the processing capacity of ASEAN countries and to create a means for the acquisition of limited resources.