The long arm of the East: China keen to get hold of German electronic scrap
In future, energy and resource efficiency, as well as principles of closed loop recycling management will set the political agenda more than short-term economic growth. Germany is more than just a role model -- it will also be attractive as a supplier of raw materials for the Middle Kingdom.
(01.06.2010) A continuous rise in energy demand, increasing climate problems, and a failure to fully embrace efficient technologies present enormous challenges to environmental, energy, and economic policies in the third millennium. Political developments have a massive influence on energy prices; expanding markets in Asia cause world-wide raw materials shortages, and global corporations dictate the conditions for the secure supply of energy and raw materials.
China has a huge demand for economic development, offering even German companies outstanding sales opportunities. Since the beginning of the 80s, China has undergone a phenomenal economic upswing. No other country in the world has even come close to the average annual GDP growth of some 10% between 1995 and 2006, which has lifted some 250 million people out of poverty. China is now already the fourth largest economy in the world. By 2010, China will overtake Germany as the third-largest economy, and by 2015 it may even surpass Japan.
"The importance of Chinese markets for German companies seems to grow with the same dynamic as the Chinese economy as a whole," Christa Thoben, Minister of Economic Affairs of the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), recently opined. At the same time, 130 Chinese companies have already settled in North Rhin-Westphalia so far.
In addition, numerous city partnerships and German-Chinese companies have been founded. Aside from mining technology, there are a number of opportunities for German companies in China in the environmental sector, such as methane gas use, efficient power plant technology, and renewables.
Economic development across broad swaths of Asia is characterized by constantly increasing consumption, tremendous growth in motorisation, increasing industrialization, infrastructure expansion, and the hunger for energy that all of these phenomena involve. According to a World Bank study, East Asian countries will invest more than US$1 trillion in expanding infrastructure, energy supplies, and communication systems over the next five years. China alone will claim some 80% of that capital. What is new here is -- along with the lack of ability to directly grasp environmental problems and their vast spatial-temporal scope -- the multifaceted and global interconnectedness of the problems. The lifestyles and consumer attitudes of the wealthy northern countries, for instance, are closely tied to global environmental problems. These days, the world is focusing on the dramatically changing energy situation in China. China's oil consumption has increased 2.1 times over the past 10 years. Due to a strong economy, increasing motorisation, and climbing car sales figures -- which surpassed the 5 million mark in 2004 -- the Chinese are consuming nearly 7 million barrels of oil per day; that is more than Japan.
"Humankind faces two big challenges in the coming years that will affect every person on earth and that, if we don't solve them, could stand to wipe out many of the things that we currently take for granted," German Minister of the Environment Sigmar Gabriel said. "The first challenge is answering the question of how to ensure a secure supply of energy, goods, and raw materials at affordable prices. The second challenge is the question of how we will generate energy, create materials, and obtain raw materials in future."
Addressing these two challenges is the real task of politics and business. Increasing globalization of markets means that German service providers have to think globally. In future, economic activity has to focus on sustainable businesses that preserve resources. This was the reason why Hellmann Process Management GmbH & Co. KG (HPM) Osnabrück set up a joint venture with a Chinese electronic device and equipment manufacturers' association. "This is a milestone in the history of a very young but successful company," said HPM CEO André Pohl, at the contract signing for the C & E Recycling Portal GmbH & Co. KG (C&ERP) joint operation. The cooperation between Hellmann Process Management GmbH & Co. KG and Beijing Cheari Ltd. was sealed in the presence of a large Chinese delegation. André Pohl was appointed CEO of C&ERP and, along with vice director of Beijing Cheari Ltd. Xuwei Bing, will hold the reins of the new company. The management promised that the new company would have significant positive effects on its location in Osnabrück. "We will not only hire new employees, but other service providers who will cooperate with us will also gravitate toward our recycling platform."
There are still a number of major tasks that will need to be completed. Among them are consultation services, as well as support to Chinese manufacturers registering in various European countries in order to fulfil their responsibilities vis-à-vis the WEEE (Directive 2002/96/EC Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment).
The new company, C&ERP, sees itself as a bridgehead for Chinese manufacturers in the electronic device and electronics industry in Europe. On the one hand, the company will represent the industry's interests in implementing the WEEE/RoHS (Directive 2002/95/EC Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances) directive; on the other hand, C&ERP will purchase logistics and recycling services on the market. Furthermore, C&ERP will serve as a communication platform between manufacturers and the national registries, such as EAR in Germany. In the mid-term, the company plans -- and this could be an industry first -- to create a materials flow for high-quality secondary raw materials in the direction of China in order to help still the hunger for raw materials in the Middle Kingdom.
Among the consulting services, the so-called "China RoHS" will soon play a crucial role. The China RoHS went into effect on March 1, 2007. Due to the especially close economic relationship between German industry and the Chinese market, this regulation deserves special attention; after all, the well known use restrictions specified in the EU-RoHS now apply to a similar -- and even sometimes more strict -- degree for German exports to the People's Republic of China.
In order to ensure the quality in future of secondary raw materials from used electronics and electronic devices, C&ERP has decided to work in partnership with CCIC Bremen Import & Export Commodities Inspection GmbH. CCIC will test all of the exported goods. A certificate is necessary to export certain goods to China. The CCIC certificate (China Import Certification of Commerce) is the mandatory Chinese certificate for various product groups, especially electronic products and machines. More and more manufacturers feel themselves forced to have their products certified due to the constantly expanding range of products requiring certification. Recently, it has been obvious that current directives and regulations governing the import of products requiring certification are being enforced more strictly.
Author: Dr. Beate Kummer, Kummer-Umweltkommunikation, Bad Honnef (Germany)
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