eWaste TakeBack Program Possible for Australia


This writer has co-managed a household reuse centre for the past 5.5 years and has experienced first hand the wave of unwanted electronics that are gushing out of Australian homes. Most analysts predict that what we are seeing, is but the swell of hidden tsunami. That the majority of old computers, printers, TVs, stereos and such forth are (with their load of heavy and precious metals) currently gathering dust in people's attics and garages. Australia has been a laggard in getting together some workable form of Extender Producer Responsibility (EPR) or 'takeback' scheme together, hoping that the electronics industry might miraculously self regulate. Mmmm. Though due credit should be given to the state of Victoria for their ByteBack program which is free to residents of the state. It was the Environment Minister for that state, John Thwaites, who recently announced there might light at the end of tunnel. He rightly observed, "Australia is in real danger of becoming an international pariah if we fail to develop consistent national solutions to the nation's environmental problems." He also mentioned that a recent conflab of state and federal environment ministers, they were able to convince the Commonwealth Government to look at the application of "advanced recycling fees" to encourage recycling of electronic equipment including televisions and computers.A much mooted idea, but so far avoided, this could see retail prices of electronics gain a small rise, to include a fee that would help fund an unified national 'takeback' of older goods. Basically a user pays system: "You want new stuff? Fine. But first you have to contribute to the responsible disposal of your superseded items." This is already the case with the Product Stewardship for Oil program in Australia, and that is a highly effective process. (Industry and the general populace generate at least 250 million litres of used oil in Australia each year, of which 194 million litres were collected and recycled in 2003.) So the template for success is already there. May this proposed electronic waste scheme finally get off the ground and prove equally as beneficial. It seems that such an idea might even be extended to tyres, fluorescent lamps, packaging materials, plastic bags and mobile phones. Now, wouldn't that be something? Via ::The Age.

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