Australia Considers E-Waste Law

by | Nov 24, 2009

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ewasteThe Australian government is supporting a recycling scheme initiated by the television and computer industries to increase electronic waste or e-waste recycling, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC). But recycling experts say it will be difficult for industry and government to decide on how to run it, according to the article.

Australia’s e-waste is growing at three times the amount of other waste types and only 4 percent gets recycled with the remainder headed for landfill, reports ABC News.

Jane Castle from Total Environment Centre, a Sydney based not-for-profit organization, told ABC the scheme will only work if industry and government can agree on how to run it and establishes a clear definition of what qualifies as recycling.

In addition, it could be costly. Kumar Radhakrishnan, senior vice-president, at Australia’s largest electronic waste recycler, Sims Recycling Solution, said in the article while it could also be a costly proposition for industries to fund.

As an example, Radhakrishnan said steel is the most common material salvaged from e-waste but it doesn’t come close to covering the cost of recycling. Companies like Sims only accept e-waste from people, companies and councils who pay for recycling, reports ABC.

Under the European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, the cost of recycling hazardous electronic waste is covered by manufacturers, with a number of collection schemes where consumers can return their used e-waste free of charge.

Even this system has challenges, with only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union being reported as treated properly and the other two thirds going to landfills and treatment sites in or outside the European Union.

In the U.S., there is currently a patchwork of state laws but as more states implement recycling programs a U.S. Senator recently proposed federal legislation to standardize e-waste recycling. The bill, called the “Electronic Device Recycling and Research and Development Act,” was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Representative Mike Thompson of California recently introduced a resolution (H.Res. 938) that calls on Congress to establish its own e-waste program, only using recyclers certified to the new e-Stewards Standard, reports the Electronics Takeback Coalition. The e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment prohibits the export of e-waste to developing countries and use of prison labor.

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