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Swiss e-Waste Programme

Switzerland, China, India, South Africa, Peru, Colombia, Brazil

Funding Agency:
Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
Project Duration:
2003 - 2011
Technology and Skills
Policy and Legislation
Business and Finance
Assessment Study


Rolf Widmer, Mathias Schluep

With its e-Waste Programme, SECO supports initiatives to assess and improve the handling of e-waste in developing and transition countries and facilitates the global exchange of gained experiences. Empa, commissioned to implement the programme, currently focuses on five countries – China, India, South Africa, Colombia and Peru. The aims to identify possibilities to mitigate the risks without reducing the attractiveness of the e-waste recycling business. Assessments and implementations are made in collaboration with local partners such as government and non-government organizations, industries, universities and others. Networking, building competences and promoting an environmentally sound e-waste recycling is a vital part of the programme. Several field studies provided some startling insights. The findings indicate that each country features different development stages of e-waste recycling systems with unique problems related to them, but fortunately also opportunities for improvements.



Switzerland has been a pioneer in legislating e-waste management. Legally, e-waste management was introduced in 1998 by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), by way of the ordinance on ‘The Return, the Taking Back and the Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ORDEE). However, the formal collection and management of e-waste started before the legislation came into force, driven by voluntary initiatives of the producer responsibility organisations (PROs) SWICO and S.EN.S. As an external technical advisor to both Swiss PRO’s, Empa regularly audits the recycling processes. read more »

China has a semi-informal collection and dismantling industry. The programme has supported the formulation of a “technical” draft for a national e-waste law. Jointly with Chinese authorities technical standards for recycling have been developed. Several pilot projects for e-waste recycling have been appointed by Chinese authorities. read more »
India has a large e-waste recycling industry, in and around the big cities, handling from collecting and dismantling to re-manufacturing and material recovery. The entire business develops in the informal sector, i.e. within small units with low-skilled, mainly migrant labour. The programme’s activities are concentrating on the ‘Cyber City’ Bangalore and support the establishment of a «Clean e-Waste Channel». read more »
South Africa has some better developed recycling facilities where the majority of the collected e-waste is recycled. However due to the absence of an efficient take back scheme for consumers and the lack of financing mechanisms only a fraction of the e-waste (estimated 10%) currently finds its way to recyclers. The programme is facilitating the development of a national e-waste management strategy. read more »


Colombia is facing major challenges trough an increasing penetration of information and communication technologies throughout businesses and public administration. Thus the Ministry of Environment has put the need for cleaner e-waste management as a top priority on the environmental agenda. The programme facilitates a detailed diagnosis of the situation and the establishment of a sustainable e-Waste management system in Colombia. read more »


Peru hasn’t seen any formal recycling activities of e-waste yet, but it is likely that dismantling of e-waste has become a lucrative and ubiquitous business for the poor, which operate in an unsafe and unhealthy environment. The responsible government authorities have raised awareness about the problem situation and decided to address the issue. As in Colombia, the programme facilitates a detailed diagnosis of the situation and the establishment of a sustainable e-Waste management system in Peru. read more »


The Brazilian electronic market is considered the fifth biggest after China, USA, Japan and Russia. Several states in Brazil have initiated e-waste initiatives, are drafting or have issued e-waste relevant regulations or have established separate collection of particular e-waste fractions. These developments contrast the national perception of e-waste. The national government is discussing since more than a decade a national law for solid waste and obstructs the drafting of subsidiary laws and regulations such as a national e-waste law. read more »
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