Why Australian law needs to adapt to tackle e-waste issues

The amount of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) in Australia is growing out of control.

While some efforts are being made to tackle the e-waste mountain, recycling targets are often modest and only apply to selected categories of e-waste.

Take the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) as an example. Its target is to recycle 80% of computers and TV sets entering the waste stream each year, but that goal isn’t due to be met until 2026-2027, a full 10 years away.

Different laws for different states

In the meantime, most items in this category will continue to go to landfill, and with computers, monitors and televisions making up less than 35% of all e-waste, it only covers a fraction of the products that will eventually be disposed of.

Another impediment to the effective management of e-waste is that many of the laws and regulations in Australia are state-based.

For example, e-waste has been banned from being disposed of in landfill in South Australia since 2013. However, that doesn’t prevent this waste from being shipped to other states where the regulations for landfill disposal are more lax. The pollution this causes is, of course, disgraceful, but with more than 90% of e-waste being recyclable, it also represents an astonishing waste of resources.

Government has a role to play

Our ability to produce new electrical and electronic items in the future will become increasingly reliant on the effective and safe recycling of the valuable materials contained in today’s e-waste.

There is a clear willingness on the part of key players in the e-waste cycle to tackle the problem. This includes the manufacturers and importers of the computers, phones, refrigerators and batteries that will eventually become e-waste, the companies and individuals who use these items, through to collectors and recyclers of e-waste.

But as the South Australian experience demonstrates, there is also a key role to be played by government. This may be a coordinating role in product stewardship schemes such as the NTCRS, but as the South Australian experiences shows, a legislative nudge in the form of outright bans on sending e-waste to landfill can help industry focus on doing the right thing.

Fortunately, an increasing number of companies are taking active responsibility for their own e-waste recycling, regardless of government inaction. And they are finding out that it is remarkably easy.

Voluntary action alone won’t be enough to stem the e-waste tide, and it’s unfair that a relatively small number of waste generators should shoulder a burden that others avoid.

Governments around the country need to emulate South Australia, and work with industry to develop effective legislation to lift e-waste recycling rates as quickly as possible.

Not only is it good for the environment, e-waste recycling is also a creator of jobs and contributor to a stronger economy.

Recycle your e-waste easily and responsibly

Whether your problem is lighting waste, computers, TVs or batteries, Ecocycle can provide easy recycling solutions.

To find out more about e-waste recycling, call Ecocycle on 1300 32 62 92 or fill in the form below.

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