Apple Helps Recycle Tiny Part of Australia's E-Waste Problem

E-waste Canberra Australia photo

On the the weekend just past residents of Australia’a capital city, Canberra, emptied their car boots of 20,000 computers and televisions. All destined to be stripped down by Sims E-Waste Recycling. Because old style Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer monitors and TVs contain a significant amount of lead, there is normally a fee for their recycling. However for this event Apple Australia picked up the collective bill for recycling any brand of electronics.

Yet as Australia makes a legislated transition to digital TV by 2010, the e-waste problem is going to get rather ugly in a very short space of time.

apple and environment photo

When Canberran’s heard the weekend's service was free courtesy of Apple, they deluged the city’s recycling centres with their electronic waste. To the point that one centre’s shipping containers were chockers by the morning of the second day.

If, like TreeHugger writer Trevor, you have continued to use the same laptop for ten years, then you probably don’t need services like this. But most folk aren't, alas, so controlled in their electronics purchasing.

Already the industry body Product Stewardship Australia figure there are 15 million televisions in the country’s homes, with 300,00 added every year.

And that doesn’t take into consideration the e-waste currently in Australian landfills. Of the more than $5 billion Australians spent on new electronics last year, only about 4% of their discarded old electronics were recycled. The ReBorn project estimate that there are over 168 million pieces of e-waste in out tips, including 37 million computers, 17 million televisions and 56 million mobile phones. That’s a huge whack of precious materials going to waste and a massive amount of toxins potentially leaching into groundwater.

Product Stewardship Australia believe the best way to tackle this burgeoning problem is to levy television suppliers as new TV sets are imported, so a recycling fund is established to recover and process the old unwanted televisions. But after years of inaction from state and federal governments to give the scheme credence the PSA are feeling frustrated.

But finally there may be a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel. Just last week, the Australian Environment Protection and Heritage Council finished taking submissions through its Television and Computer Product Stewardship consultation package.

Photos: ABC and Apple
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