The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and Total Environment Centre (TEC) have joined forces to call on State and Federal governments to create a compulsory recycling scheme for computer equipment and televisions, funded by a mandatory recycling fee at the point of sale.
They want a meeting of state and federal environment ministers in Tasmania on May 22 to endorse the scheme – despite it having been previously ruled out, at least in the short term, by Federal Minister Peter Garrett.
AIIA and Sustainability Australia have been operating the Byteback voluntary scheme in Victoria with the support of IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Apple. But other electronics-makers – including small suburban PC assemblers – declined to join in, leading to them being derided as “free riders” by the AIIA.
Under the proposed new scheme participation would be mandatory for all makers, and retailers would have to collect fees on new equipment to finance it.
Nationally, only Dell currently offers a day-to-day pick-up scheme for end-of-life consumer PCs and ancillary equipment of any brand, with the equipment being broken down and recycled by MRI. However Dell’s charges for the service, and a lack of promotion, have inhibited widespread use by consumers.
The AIIA/TEC scheme envisages federal and state governments introducing the necessary new laws by next year. The laws would ensure consumers have easy access to collection networks.
According to AIIA CEO Ian Birks, about 30 per cent of industry chose not to be involved in the Byteback scheme – “to have 100 per cent participation we do need government regulation,” he told ABC radio.
“We have to stop the stream of millions of computers and televisions being dumped into landfill,” said Jeff Angel, director of the Total Environment Centre, announcing the latest initiative. “This compact sets out the principles we want government to build into a proper regulatory regime that covers the entire industry. The environmental benefits are significant.”
Angel says a “small upfront fee” on the price of the product would support easily accessible collection services, possibly including kerbside pick-up.
Said AIIA’s Ian Birks: “We are pleased to be working with the environment movement to develop a uniform national approach to the management of electronic waste. We have been pushing for the Government to provide a consistent regulatory framework that excludes free riders for some time, so that we can confidently roll out a nationwide take-back and recycling scheme”.
Both groups say a computer and television recycling scheme will also create jobs in the push for a green economy. “Industry and green groups agree on principles and are calling for action, and the government needs to catch up,” said Angel. “But the situation can be fixed when the environment ministers meet in Hobart on May 22.”