Recycling of End-of-Life Products

In order to ensure efficient use of resources and appropriate treatment of hazardous substances, in accordance with recycling regulations in each country and region of the world, Toshiba Group is promoting the collection and recycling of products that customers have stopped using. In Japan, in addition to products subject to the Act on Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances and the Act on the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources, we have established a unique scheme to collect elevators, MFP/POS systems, and other office equipment. Toshiba Group also observes the WEEE Directive* in Europe and state laws in the United States. Furthermore, we are preparing to respond appropriately to recycling-related laws enacted in China, India, and Australia and those expected to be enacted in the future by governments in other countries in Asia and Central/South America.

* WEEE Directive: The European Union (EU) Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive

Case: Introduction of resource circulation in Japan and a plastic sorting system

Toshiba Environmental Solutions Corporation

The importance of further promoting plastic resource circulation has been increasing due to the need to respond to the issues of marine plastic debris and climate change.

In April 2022, the “Act on Promotion of Resource Circulation for Plastics” (Plastic Resource Circulation Act) was brought into effect for the purpose of encouraging all kinds of associations to work on plastic resource circulation in the entire lifecycle of plastic products from their design to their disposal.

Waste plastics that were exported to developing countries have been causing water contamination due to detergent drain discharged during the recycling process. In addition, leaking of plastic residue into the sea due to inappropriate treatment has also been pointed out (Fig. 1). As such, developing countries have started to impose restrictions on the export of waste plastics. In January 2021, the Annex to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was revised and dirty waste plastics were added to the items subject to regulations. According to the revision, the consent of the other country is now required to export harmful plastic waste and plastic waste requiring special consideration.

Fig. 1 Example of untreated drain discharged from a recycling facility (left) and disposal of plastics that are not suitable for recycling (right)
(Excerpt from “Summary of the Criteria for distinguishing plastic wastes subject to control under the Japanese Basel Act from other wastes(817KB),” Ministry of the Environment)

In light of these international trends, Toshiba Environmental Solutions Corporation introduced a plastic sorting system in 2019 (Fig. 2). When an end-of-life electrical or electronic product is taken apart and crushed, mixed plastics, which are a mix of several different types of plastic, are generated. The plastic sorting system performs advanced automatic sorting of such plastics. By performing advanced sorting of plastics until a quality equivalent to exemption from the regulations under the Basel Convention is reached, that is, into plastics comprised of a single type of material that is transparent or single colored (Fig. 3), mixed plastics that used to be disposed of after the export regulations in developing countries came into force are now able to be reused. As a result, the recycling rate of end-of-life electrical and electronic products after 2019 when the plastic sorting system was introduced improved and the rate for FY2021 was 86%. Going forward, Toshiba Environmental Solutions Corporation will continue to contribute to promoting resource circulation (Fig. 4).

Fig. 2 Plastic sorting system

Fig. 3 Examples of plastic waste derived from used electrical and electronic equipment or E-waste
(Source: Summary of the Criteria for distinguishing plastic wastes subject to control under the Japanese Basel Act from other wastes(817KB), Ministry of the Environment)

Fig. 4 Changes in the recycling rate of end-of-life electrical and electronic products