Media Releases | 24th Aug, 2006

Urgent action needed on computer recycling laws

Thursday, 24 August 2006

An alliance of recycling companies, local councils and environment groups call for urgent government action to make computer manufacturers take responsibility for their obsolete products.

The Alliance, calling itself the Lets do IT! Group, is calling on the Federal and state governments to introduce mandatory extended producer responsibility schemes to ensure the millions of computers currently dumped in landfill each year are instead recycled.

The alliance has been formed because of frustration with the drawn-out process by industry and government to agree on a computer take-back scheme. The launch coincides with yet another Computer Products Stewardship Meeting (CPSM) held with computer companies and Australian governments.

“The industry is in go-slow mode and is pushing for a mirage based on a national, voluntary process,” said Jeff Angel, Total Environment Centre (TEC) Director. “It’s another diversionary tactic to avoid responsibility for dumping of hazardous computers in landfills.

“For the past five years, consumers, recyclers and environment groups have been excluded from the process while computer manufacturers and governments have done little but talk. While we wait, more and more computers go to landfill.”

Approximately 1.6 million computers are dumped in landfill each year, with toxic chemicals including mercury and cadmium able to leach into the environment.

“The recycling industry is raring to go,” said Peter Netchaef, General Manager of SIMS Recycling Solutions. “We have the facilities in place, technology and the experience to recycle e-waste in an environmentally responsible manner. There is no longer any excuse for state governments to continue to procrastinate on this matter.”

“The only way to ensure the safe disposal and recycling of e-waste is through governments’ banning computers from landfill and making manufacturers and importers introduce take-back recycling services, ” said Jenny Henty, Environment Victoria’s Zero Waste Campaign Director.

“The infrastructure is in place to enable large scale e-waste recycling, but is being under-utilised as increasing volumes of toxic e-waste continues to go to landfill.” said Kane Siegel, General Manager of TIC Ewaste Solutions.

Cr Genia McCaffery, President of the NSW Local Government Association said, “Local councils are being unfairly burdened with increasing volumes of throw-away e-waste, with industry actively promoting product replacement and redundancy. Councils don’t have the capacity to recycle it, so known hazardous materials are going into landfill even though recycling technology is available. Clearly it’s time for state governments to prevent computers from being dumped in landfills and mandate producer responsibility for collection and recycling.”

“Many of the brand owners are committed to the concept of Product Stewardship, but are hampered by lack of a government commitment and legislation to mandate compulsory membership of a recycling scheme. The waste processors also need a series of measures to ensure they are not required to compete unfairly with landfill.” said Will Le Messurier, General Manager of MRI.

Previous take-back proposals by the industry group Australian Information Industry Association have been rejected by state and federal ministers.

Governments have rejected industry proposals because they do not address `historical’ or ‘orphan’ equipment – no-name products or computers from manufacturers that have closed down. Despite promises to include these products, no new proposal has emerged. Some producers want to stick to their own take-back schemes and the CPSM has yet to engage the multitude of small component importers, which make up half the industry.

The Computer Recycling Roundtable will have its first meeting in Melbourne in September. Top priority on the agenda is to rapidly progress computer recycling schemes across Australia.

Let’s do IT Roundtable Members:

  • Total Environment Centre – Total Environment Centre is a leading non-profit environmental advocacy group working at state and national levels since its inception in 1972.
  • SIMS Recycling Solutions – SIMSGroup is the World’s largest recycling company with more than 120 sites across 16 countries processing end of life products, metals, plastics, tyres and other non-metallic materials as well as a producer of sustainable energy.
  • MRI Australia – MRI Australia offers End-of-Life and End-of-Use solutions for computer and telecommunications equipment through environmentally innovative refurbishment, remarketing and recycling.
  • Environment Victoria – Environment Victoria is the state’s peak non-government environment organisation and has been campaigning across Victoria for more than 30 years.
  • NSW LGA – The LGA represents 73 councils in NSW’s metropolitan and major regional cities.
  • TIC – TIC Ewaste Solutions, a division of TIC Group, provides integrated services for the collection and recycling of electronic waste throughout Australia.
  • Conservation Council of Western Australian – The Conservation Council of WA is the State’s peak conservation organization, representing 80 affiliated groups and working to promote conservation and a sustainable society.