Can Australia do better on e-waste?

Can Australia do better on e-waste?

Australians are among the highest users of technology and e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste

Credit: Dreamstime

The majority of electronic waste (e-waste) produced in Australia is not recycled, a figure that needs to change, according Dan Pritchard, CEO of IT asset lifecycle management provider Greenbox. 

Figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicate that Australians are among the highest users of technology and e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste. 

As of 2008, 17 million televisions and 37 million computers had been sent to landfill, according to ABS research. Indeed, of the 15.7 million computers that reached their 'end of life' in Australia in 2007-08, only 1.5 million were recycled — less than 10 per cent, ABS records show. 

According to the ABS, collection services began to be introduced gradually across Australia from mid-2012 and the scheme is designed to build on existing recycling services already available.

However, the most recent figures by the ABS show that the Australian economy domestically generated 465,818 tonnes of e-waste in 2016-17, with 253,507 tonnes, or 54.4 per cent, going to landfill. The data also show that households overwhelmingly produce the bulk of e-waste in Australia. 

E-waste ending up in landfill presents a few problems, according to the ABS. 

“Televisions and computers contain hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury, which need to be managed in a safe manner,” the ABS said on its website. “Despite this many computers and televisions are disposed [of] with household rubbish and end up in landfill.”

While the figures on e-waste provided by the ABS are not new, or even recent, and although programs have since been implemented to improve the rate of recycling, for Pritchard, there remains much room for Australia to improve on its e-waste record.

To mark World Environment Day — 5 June — Pritchard is calling on the Australian ICT industry to join together to “become a solution” to Australia’s e-waste problem.

Read more: TechCollect targeting B2B e-waste in 2014

“Australians are amongst the highest users of technology and e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste in our country,” Pritchard said. 

“My challenge to the technology sector in Australia and to all ICT decision makers in both the private sector and government, is to ensure they are making informed decisions with their ICT lifecycle management, and to help Australia stop contributing unnecessarily to landfill,” he added.

According to Greenbox, 95 per cent of Australia’s typical e-waste, including computers, laptops, monitors, printers, scanners, mobile phones, multi-function devices, copiers and fax machines, can be recycled. Clearly, with the most recent ABS figures suggesting over half of e-waste still ends up in landfill, there is room for improvement.

But how does Australia’s record on e-waste compare to the rest of the world?

Read more on the next page...

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