Visit from the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry

Specialist skills in e-waste recycling in demand

Jul 26, 2005 | BEAT ASCHWANDEN
On Wednesday 20 July a Chinese delegation visited Empa St. Gallen. The delegation was in search of answers to issues involving electronic and electrical waste. It was impressed by Empa's skills in this field.

China's economy is booming – as is the volume of electronic refuse, or e-waste for short, that the country's growth is generating. This is presenting the Chinese government with massive problems, because efficient recycling of e-waste not only requires an efficient organization, but also poses major risks to health and the environment. The Chinese Ministry of Information Industry (MII) therefore sent a delegation headed by Wang Bing Ke, Vice President Bureau of Economy System Reform & Economy Operation Division of Structural Reform, to Europe for two weeks to find out more about experience here.

The delegation visited Empa St. Gallen on Wednesday 20 July 2005. The visitors were impressed by what they saw. In the last ten years Empa has not only helped to set up Switzerland's successful e-waste recycling system, it also monitors the country's recycling and dismantling facilities. This experience was one of the factors that in 2003 prompted the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) to commission Empa to investigate the handling of electronic waste in developing and emerging countries.


China impressed by Empa's skills

The knowledge obtained from this activity will now be transferred to China, and the MII has been one of Empa's partners in the e-waste project. An agreement on future cooperation has been signed. With Empa's support the Chinese government wants to reformulate its legislation and establish a functioning, sustainable recycling system in the country.
But what works in Switzerland will not necessarily prove of lasting value to China. The Swiss recycling system therefore needs to be adapted to conditions in China and its limitations have to be identified. With its many years of experience in e-waste recycling, specialist skills and responsibility, Empa is the perfect partner for this project.  

The delegation was also extremely interested in the level of compatibility between the Swiss Ordinance and the EU's WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive. Unlike the WEEE directive, the Swiss law does not specify any minimum recycling quotas, but the quantity processed was in excess of 10 kg per resident in 2004 – significantly more than the 4 kg required in the EU and impressive proof of the effectiveness of the system monitored by Empa.



Dr. Bärbel Zierl, Communication department,


Martin Eugster, Head of E-Waste-Project in China, +41 (0)71 274 78 55,