MRI E-cycle Solutions considers that the ABC's Background Briefing story* to be aired on Sunday March 12 on the export of e-waste to Africa is one-sided and does not acknowledge the major achievements of the electronics industry and government to address e-waste in recent years.
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MRI E-cycle Solutions is very concerned that illegal exports of electronic waste continue to occur and that there are still e-waste recyclers in Australia who do not comply with the Australian standard e-waste recycling AS/NZS 5377:2013. However, MRI E-cycle Solutions also considers that there has been significant progress made by the electronics industry and government in diverting e-waste from landfill since 2012.

There are always two sides to a story, so it is important that the public realises that since 2012, importers of televisions, computers, printers and computer peripherals have been required to collect, recycle and provide free recycling to householders and small businesses nationally, under the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations 2011.

As a result of the Regulations, the annual amount of e-waste diverted from landfill has increased from an estimated 10,600 tonnes per in 2007-08 (or 10% of waste arising), to 44,630 tonnes in 2014-15 (or 35% of waste arising), with an estimated 52,800 tonnes (or 50% of waste arising) recycled in 205-16. This represents over 184,500 tonnes of e-waste recycled since 2012.

Community access to free drop-off sites and events has never been more convenient with the number of free public drop off points for televisions and computers around Australia growing from 635 in 2012-13 to over 1670 in 2014-15.

Recyclers under the Scheme must recover more than 90% of all products collected.

Likewise, importers of televisions, computers, printers and computer peripherals must join a co-regulatory arrangement and contribute financially to the Scheme otherwise they will be subject to penalties and fines.

As with every new regulated scheme, there are teething problems, however industry and government have responded to these promptly and effectively.

In 2014 /2015 as a direct result of the federal government's operational review of the Regulations:

  • The Scheme targets were increased from 38% to 50% in 2015-16, 58% in 2016-17 and 62% in 2017-18, reaching 80% by 2026-27; and
  • All e-waste recyclers working under the Scheme from the 1 July 2016 must be compliant to AS/NZS 5377.

As a co-regulatory arrangement and a long-standing e-waste recycler, MRI E-cycle Solutions is committed to best practice in keeping e-waste out of landfill and ensuring it is recycled to the highest environmental standards in a safe, secure and ethical way.

MRI E-cycle Solutions is committed to working with liable parties, local councils, collectors, transporters and recyclers to ensure that we exceed Australian and international standards and make e-waste recycling easy and safe for all parties involved.

We also believe that rogue traders of e-waste should be stopped forthwith complete with significant penalties. We support effective policing of exports by the Australian Border Force to ensure proper practices and adherence to international conventions on hazardous wastes.

Furthermore, all e-waste recyclers in Australia must comply with and be independently audited to the Australian standard AS/NZS 5377.

Illegal exporting of e-waste is unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue under any circumstances. Similarly, inferior tracking, poor reporting and unsafe processing of e-waste should be eliminated through the application of the Australian standard.

The environmental and health impacts are substantial if electronic products are not processed properly, let alone the poor management of finite resources used in the manufacture of these products, for e.g. copper, silver, gold and other non-renewable materials.

The Minister for the Environment and Energy's announcement of the review of the Product Stewardship Act (more here) is very welcomed. We look forward to working with industry, local councils and government to further improve these regulatory tools, including how to expand the scope of the NTCRS to include a wider range of electronics so that health and environmental impacts are continually minimised.

*For more information on the ABC's Background Briefing story, click here.

Rose Read is the CEO of MRI PSO. Contact: rread@mri.com.au or 0418 216 364.