Breakthroughs on Australia's waste



Dead computers

Credit: eRevival Electronics and Computer Recycling

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Australian environment ministers have made fundamental progress on the national management of waste at last week's meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) in Hobart.

The Council, which is comprised of ministers from all Australian states and territories, has declared the first new national vision for our country's waste since 1992, committing to finalising a new National Waste Policy by November this year.

A key element of this new approach will be the incorporation of national product stewardship arrangements, where manufacturers and distributors would be called upon to take greater responsibility for reducing the environmental impact of their goods, in not only product design but through involvement in end-of-life disposal and recycling.

Of particular importance is the Council's focus on addressing stewardship for the recycling of Australia's electronic waste (e-waste). It agreed that a national framework is needed to run an effective e-waste program, and will release a Regualtory Impact Statement in the coming months for public comment to indentify the most appropriate policy mechanisms to govern the initiative.

E-waste is a mounting problem, with around 1.6 million computers being dumped in our landfills each year, and another 1.8 million being stored away, unused, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

"This is a landmark decision," said Ian Birks, Chief Executive Office of the Australian Information Industry Association, which has piloted the Byteback computer take-back and recycling program in Victoria since 2007. "Government is to be congratulated for taking a proactive approach to developing a consistent national framework for e-waste recycling in Australia."

"Several options are available to establish a viable computer recycling scheme [but] the common requirement for an effective outcome is legislation at the national level," Birks said.

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