The Japanese government will ease restrictions in fiscal 2018 on imports of discarded smartphones and laptops in the hope of unlocking a treasure trove of rare metals such as gold and nickel. It aims to secure a stable supply of these metals, which the devices contain, by retrieving them in a practice known as urban mining, against a backdrop of heightening demand from fast-growing emerging economies.
The cabinet approved the revision to the Act for the Control of Export, Import and Others of Specified Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes, otherwise known as the Basel Convention, on March 10. The current regulations mandate an average six-month screening process when importing discarded electronic devices from developing countries with lenient environmental restrictions, but the this review process will be eliminated.
EU nations are exempt from these reviews, so sellers who prefer to avoid red tape offer their resources to European countries. METI calculates that this amendment will be worth approximately 100 billion yen.