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Tackling the growth of e-waste, one Sydney Harbour Bridge at a time…

Posted by | November 11, 2014 | E-Waste, Electronics, Recycling, TechCollect | No Comments

By Carmel Dollisson, Chief Executive Officer, ANZRP

The technology revolution

As we are fast heading into 2015, I am amazed at the rapid growth of technology consumerism in the last two decades. The digital age is accelerating at a rate which, not so long ago, would have been completely unimaginable.

Seemingly with each new week comes the launch of a new desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone – always faster, more compact, intelligent and more on-trend than the last. We are fortunate to live in an age where technology is so innovative and accessible, and helps in so many aspects of our daily lives.

It’s often an afterthought but can you imagine the amount of old gadgets Australia has disposed of in the last two decades? Did you know that by 2017, the global amount of electronic waste (e-waste) produced is predicted to reach 65.4 million tonnes, which is almost 20 per cent of the weight of the entire population on earth 1 – or about 1,200 Sydney Harbour Bridges!

Recent forecasts also predict that the weight of televisions and computers reaching their end-of-life in Australia, is projected to grow to 181,000 tonnes by 2027–28. 2 These numbers are extremely disconcerting, especially considering the high level of renewable resources that are lost when product is not properly recycled, and potentially toxic materials ending up in landfill.
In tackling this issue, there is a joint responsibility for all of us: governments, the technology industry and end users – both consumer and corporates.

Challenging the consumer and corporate mindset

As consumers we’re increasingly focused on being more eco-friendly, and making informed and environmentally responsible decisions when shopping. We’re very good at recycling materials like paper, cardboard and glass, and many of us love using recycled goods, paying close attention to labels that claim ‘free-range’ and ‘organic’. And we’re extremely cautious about any harmful chemicals we may be exposing our families to.

But when it comes to e-waste – why are some of us so quick to turn a blind eye? These statistics are alarming but a good ‘warning sign’ for Australian consumers and businesses to take notice, and start acting responsibly.

Recycling also plays a big role in Australia’s future industrial and environmental development. The recycling of e-waste is a critical component of our transition towards reducing Australia’s reliance on non-renewable materials. Waste avoidance, sustainable design and manufacture, and recycling need to be considered holistically – so that Australia can reduce its reliance on non-renewable resources and “below-the-ground” mining, and sustainably manage resources that are consumed.

The yellow brick road to responsible recycling

TechCollect is a free national recycling service for computers, computer accessories and televisions, established by Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform (ANZRP), in response to the Federal Government’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS). As the only not-for-profit industry-for-industry e-waste recycling service approved under the NTCRS, we are funded – and represented on our Board – by some of the world’s biggest technology brands, who through our program play their key role in responsible recycling.

It’s not an easy feat, but at TechCollect, we are working to drive awareness around the growing industry of e-waste, we are passionate about educating Australians about the importance of recycling responsibly, and we are working closely with communities across Australia to help reduce our impact on the environment as citizens.

We’ve recently completed our second full year of operations, in which we met our regulatory targets and maintained our status as the largest of the Co-regulatory Arrangements (CAs) under the NTCRS. In addition, we’re the only approved e-waste recycling service to consistently achieve a recovery rate of at least 90 per cent since the Scheme’s launch.

Tackling e-waste head on

The Scheme continues to evolve, with the Hon Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment, recently announcing a review into the operational aspects of the NTCRS.

TechCollect welcomes this very timely review and believes that it is in the best interests of the Scheme. We will participate in the review and share our expertise and experience about its implementation and areas of enquiry, while acknowledging that, through the NTCRS, industry is fully meeting its obligations under the regulations.

We also share the regulator’s view that greater responsibility needs to be taken by individual states for managing their share of e-waste recycling, and we strongly believe the scheme must be driven by fair and transparent partnerships that are beneficial to all parties, from liable parties and CAs to collection partners and recyclers.

Our love of technology should not come at any cost and as consumers, we must start to take greater responsibility for our consumption of devices. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and there are many simple steps we can take, that will help make a big difference to our community.

So what’s the first step?

Visit www.techcollect.com.au to find out how you can help – you’ll find free drop-off points listed around the country.

1 Huffington Post, Human Population’s Weight Estimated At 316 Million Tons, 2012
2 Planet Ark, Recycling Revolution Report, 2013