In a murky paddock in some unspecified location, more than 19 tonnes of computer waste has been left unchecked, slowly seeping hazardous chemicals into the environment.
Such a sight is not uncommon to Rick Wakelin, general manager of Global Remarketing, a Volante Group company which refurbishes and supplies second-hand information technology products.
“Individuals and companies come here to dump their old computers,” Wakelin said. “A lot of councils simply don’t have policies to deal with this issue.”
“I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of computer waste entirely, Wakelin said. “The problem is that there are so many old computers out there that still contain high levels of contaminant.”
Although some computer parts can be recycled and reused, it has often been seen as the easiest solution to simply ship these old computers off to other countries.
“But since the government has ratified the Basel convention [an international treaty to end the most abusive forms of hazardous waste trade] the laws have changed,” Wakelin said.
It was no longer possible to export old computers without having environmental accreditation from the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand, he said.
Currently, Global Remarketing is the only Australian IT company to have received such accreditation.
“Any computer that was built prior to 1998 is not exportable,” Wakelin said. “And you can’t export anything to non-OECD countries as they do not have systems and policies in place to deal with hazardous waste.”
About 47 per cent of the upper echelon product received by Global Remarketing is now exported. “But our aim as a company is to not export anything without first trying to create ways for it to be used,” Wakelin said. By the end of 2004 there would be more than 20 million obsolete PCs in Australia.