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An opportunity not to be wasted

An opportunity not to be wasted

Josh Millen has been with the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) for more than three years. Having recently relinquished responsibility for running its office in Victoria, he is now dedicated solely to the association’s corporate social responsibility with a specific focus on the environment. He recently caught up with ARN to talk about the current state of e-waste disposal in Australia and plans for building a national scheme.

Tell us about the AIIA’s Byteback program.

Josh Millen, AIIA (JM): It’s a pretty comprehensive computer collection and recycling trial that we’ve been running in Victoria since June last year. We have a relationship with the state government and Sustainability Victoria has invested $2 million into the project. There are four transfer stations currently operating but that is expanding out to nine. It’s free for consumers and small businesses with 20 employees or less to drop off up to 10 items. In addition to the permanent transfer stations, we are also looking at collection sites for regional Victoria that would give people an opportunity to drop equipment off during a specified couple of days.

More than 90 per cent of the equipment collected through Byteback is 6-12 years old, which suggests that people are storing stuff in cupboards and sheds. That could have some pretty big implications for the cost of recycling.

When I joined the AIIA three-and-a-half years ago, the first thing on the plate was getting regulation established around Australia for recycling. There are two sides to the equation – business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). The top of the B2B market has always operated with contract clauses, which are even more prevalent now, that expect suppliers to look after the reuse of equipment and end-of-life disposal. We think that side of the market is pretty well covered.

On the other side of the supply chain, we’re looking at what happens to stuff sold directly to consumers. What are the possibilities and what are the plausibilities? Australia is different to many other countries in the world because we have a bigger whitebox market. As well as the developing brands, there are many more companies that have assembled components and put a product in the market. When I started at AIIA, whitebox was 50 per cent of the market and although that’s shrinking, the amount coming through Byteback is still significant. We’ve captured almost 700 unique brands of computers, printers and miscellaneous products like keyboards, speakers and other peripherals. For 77 per cent of those brands, we have recovered less than 10 pieces of equipment though the program.

How much equipment has been collected through Byteback since it started?

JM: We’ve got 650 tonnes so far and expect to double that by the end of the year. The central site in Melbourne has seen a steady increase in the amount of equipment it receives as awareness grows and there’s also momentum in the smaller sites.


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