With just over a month to go until the Victorian government’s introduction of its landfill ban of e-waste, the state will soon become the third jurisdiction in Australia to ban the waste stream.
The e-waste ban will mean local councils, businesses and consumers will have to ensure that any used broken or obsolete goods are reused or recycled.
According to the state government’s estimates, Victoria generated 105,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2015, which equates to more than 18kg per person. And from this number, over 55 per cent of it was still getting sent to landfill.
There has been a growing acknowledgement by governments and the community that potentially hazardous substances that can be found in e-waste – such as lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants – must be safely recovered and managed.
Communities and governments have been looking more and more to manufacturers and retailers of electrical and electronic goods to step-up and provide consumer-friendly options, which enables reuse and repair, rather than premature disposal.
Efforts have already been made by the state government to increase the number of convenient drop-off locations for collecting e-waste to complement existing industry-funded schemes like MobileMuster, Cartridges for Planet Ark, and the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS).
E-waste Watch director and co-founder, Rose Read, said there are multiple benefits with banning e-waste from landfill.
“E-waste landfill bans not only increase recovery and recycling rates, they also serve to educate the community about consumption and how we can reuse and recycle electronics,” Read said.
“While many of the materials found in e-waste are recyclable, they are also a finite resource, and some are quite scarce. This means we have to also slow the rate of use of these materials by maximising the functional life electrical and electronic goods and increasing their durability.
“Keeping e-waste out of bins and landfills also helps reduce the growing incidence of fires caused by batteries often found in e-waste. It will help reduce the contamination of other recyclable waste streams as well.”
According to Read, some critical questions that need wider exposure and much more discussion include:
- Will householders and businesses have to pay for the recycling of their old electrical and electronic products?
- Are batteries accepted?
- What controls are in place to ensure they are recycled properly, and what will happen to any data left on some electronic items?
- Can householders and businesses take their electrical and electronic goods back to the manufacturers and retailers for repair or free recycling?
- Will local councils who are left to implement the landfill ban be able to field the many questions and provide collection services that meet the expectations of residents and businesses?
Director and co-founder of E-waste Watch, John Gertsakis, believes the landfill ban is only one part of the solution and that the Federal government must as a matter of urgency, expand the NTCRS to include all electrical and electronic products not covered by an industry product stewardship scheme.
“The Victorian ban in an important first step, but local councils need much more support to make the ban environmentally beneficial and socially acceptable,” Gertsakis said.
“Councils need the support of manufacturers, brands and retailers to ensure recycling is free and that community-friendly options are provided for electronics reuse, repair and recycling.
“The Federal Coalition in its election promises committed $20 million to product stewardship. Its priority should be to implement regulated schemes for all e-waste including batteries, under the Product Stewardship Act where effective voluntary schemes did not exist.
“The ultimate success of the ban will only be realised if we have complementary industry funded systems and infrastructure to recover, reuse, repair, refurbish or recycle unwanted electronics,” Gertsakis said.