The idea of having an overarching e-waste program has been in the pipeline for many years, so it’s great to see the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) recognising the need for a national initiative to deal with end-of-life IT hardware products (see page 1).
There has been plenty of discussion – I would argue for a little less conversation and a bit more action – on ways our industry can run an Australia-wide e-waste program. The biggest roadblock every time has been what to do with orphan products from now-defunct branded and whitebox PC vendors sitting in the storage cupboards of most corporate and consumer users.
Unlike the television industry, the PC industry is full of whitebox products – around 50 per cent until recently. And just last year, we saw the demise of Ipex and Optima, two significant government PC providers which fell over after being unable to transition to a solutions-based age. Who will pay for their products to be disposed of thoughtfully?
According to EPHC’s communications, the broader end-user population is willing to fork out an additional cost to have their PCs and televisions recycled. Speaking from personal experience, I’d be happy to pay a small fee if I knew the IT product I purchased would be dealt with appropriately after I’d finished using it. But that doesn’t answer the question of what to do with the stuff already out in the wild.
For many in the industry, the best way to implement a national scheme is to expand the Australian Information and Industry Association’s Byteback program, which was first established as an initiative between HP and Sustainability Victoria in 2005. The program now has 11 key members including significant vendors like Apple, IBM, Lenovo and Dell. One of the problems the AIIA faced with Byteback was it wasn’t accepted by everybody. As a result, the costs of covering unbranded goods, or those from other vendors not in the program, had to be borne by only those involved.
If all vendors are required by legislation to participate in this program, costs will be distributed to more organisations, making this less of an issue. But then how do we legislate who pays for it? And how do we charge this fee – at the docks, the business registry, or at the store level?
ARN has been pursuing this for years, and has sponsored the Clean Up Australia charity campaign for the last two years at the ARN IT Industry Awards. The question of ensuring we cover all e-waste – past and future – is a momentous task, but I’m glad to see our government recognising that everybody needs to be involved.
In this issue, we’ve also included the first of a new fourpart series, How To Survive The Economic Downturn. This time, we’ve looked at sales and marketing and how these have been impacted by the dour financial climate.
We’ll be following this up with business management and staffing tips and tricks in coming weeks, so stay tuned.