Toshiba: lighting recycling facility leads the way

In view of mounting concerns about the environmental effects of discarded electrical and electronic products, Toshiba is setting an example in Thailand with its THB 30 million plant in Pathum Thani to…

In view of mounting concerns about the environmental effects of discarded electrical and electronic products, Toshiba is setting an example in Thailand with its THB 30 million plant in Pathum Thani to recycle lighting products. In 2004, Thai consumers generated 60,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic appliances, enough to cover 200 standard-sized football pitches. About 82% of this electrical and electronic junk is recycled, but the rest is embedded in the ground or thrown into rivers, according to the Pollution Control Department. While handling electrical and electronic waste is still unfamiliar to many Thai manufacturers, Toshiba“s Thailand operation has been a pioneer in the field. It hopes that consumers will one day reward its efforts to keep the country clean. The company started in 2006 by collecting and recycling discarded lighting products. It set up a lighting recycling facility at its factory in Bang Kadi Industrial Park in Pathum Thani province, said Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, chairwoman of the Thai Toshiba Group of Companies. The 3,200-square-metre facility is similar to recycling plants in Japan. It now receives 4,800 tonnes of lighting waste per day. The amount of refuse is expected to increase to 10,000 tonnes in the future. More than 99% of lighting products can be recycled. The glass is melted to produce raw material for new lighting, and sludge is used for cement products. To tell more people about the scheme, the company will allocate about 20% of its marketing budget each year to promote environmental activities with various groups, particularly young people. Many companies, including Siam Cement, Chulalongkorn Hospital, Thai Airways and PTT deliver their used lighting products to Toshiba. Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding also plans to collect lights from various communities and deliver them to the company. Mrs Kobkarn said Toshiba would also sign a memorandum of understanding with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to prepare special bins for discarded lighting in suitable locations. It also wants petrol stations to collect the waste. Apart from the new recycling facility, Toshiba also plans to modify existing lighting lines at its factories in 2007 to start making more environmentally safe lighting products. “Our costs increased by 10% after we implemented the recycling system, but we will maintain our prices and hope more people and organisations consider our green products as a top priority,” Mrs Kobkarn said. As far as audio-visual and lighting products are concerned, the company hopes to use raw materials with as few toxins as possible. This will be the new selling point of Toshiba, which will help it avoid the need to compete on price with cheap Chinese products. Toshiba has started to use the animated character T-Chan to symbolise the concepts behind selling its energy-saving and environmentally-friendly products to Thai customers this year. Mrs Kobkarn, who is also a vice-president of the Thai Chamber Commerce, said the business organisation had asked the government to pass a law for recycling specific home and electrical appliances. “We realise that the recycling of waste electronic products is part of our responsibility as a manufacturer,” she said.