Metal recycler, Sims Group, has challenged whitebox builders to clean up their act as it launches a national PC recycling business in conjunction with environment services business, Collex.
Most old computers and peripherals in Australia currently end up in landfill sites, but the Sims initiative will recover metals, circuit board plastics and CRT glass.
Equipment produced by major manufacturers would be the main target market, according to Sims general manager of waste and recycling, Peter Netchaef.
He said the main reason for this was that branded equipment was more easily traceable.
"The problem in Australia is that virtually 100 per cent of electronics are imported into the country and about half of PCs are whiteboxes without brand names," Netchaef said.
Identifying whitebox manufacturers equipment was very difficult because a myriad of components were used, he said.
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) is aware of the accountability problem and has formed a working group to tackle the issue. But its general manager of strategy and services, James McAdam, said Volante [Ipex] was currently the only whitebox builder represented.
"It is a huge issue ensuring orphaned products are accounted for," he said. "Our pilot scheme ran in Western Sydney found 600 different brand names out of 6000 pieces of equipment collected."
CEO of the industry body, Rob Durie, said PC builders would be much more difficult to regulate for recycling than their television counterparts.
"Too many PC manufacturers just screw them together and ship them out," he said.
Australia's largest PC manufacturer Optima acknowledged that getting all manufacturers to act responsibly was an issue.
"At the moment we do not have a policy on recycling but we are working on it and looking at tagging each component," Optima managing director, Cornel Ung, said.
The issue had grown recently, he said, as old CRT screens were replaced with new LCD equipment. As a result, government and education sector customers in particular were looking for manufacturer disposal policies.
Government legislation would be key to any solution, Sims' Netchaef said. He pointed to Europe, which had already seen the establishment of the Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE) initiative.
But ensuring a level playing field by having all manufacturers buy into the scheme was a challenge, he acknowledged.
The consumer market would be an even more difficult proposition, Netchaef said, as no incentive existed to hand in machines for recycling instead of dumping them for landfill.