Japan, ASEAN to Cooperate on Recycling Rare Metals in ‘Urban Mines’

REUTERS/Romeo Gacad/Pool
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) flag (R) leads the flags of the 10-member countries during the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Singapore July 23, 2008.

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to cooperate on utilizing used electronic devices, which contain copper and rare metals, they announced Tuesday.

Japan will provide technology to recover and recycle metals from the equipment. The aim is to build a system to circulate resources in Southeast Asian countries and diversify Japan’s suppliers.

Shinichi Nakatani, senior vice minister for economy, trade and industry, attended the Japan-ASEAN Economic Ministers’ meeting held in Indonesia on Tuesday and agreed on an action plan with the ASEAN side, including the establishment of a circular economy initiative.

Used electronic devices containing copper and other metals are called “urban mines” in reference to the mines from which the metals are originally taken. Japan has the technology to recover and recycle these metals. Insufficient recycling technology in some Southeast Asian countries, where the use of electronic devices is expected to increase, has given rise to concerns about environmental pollution caused by the disposal of electronic equipment.

Japan plans to promote recycling technologies and policies through the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia. Japan will send experts from Japanese companies to offer training on the recovery of copper and other metals from PCs and smartphones.