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e-waste

Australia’s

lagging e-waste laws

Australia’s management of electronic waste is poorly implemented, lags behind international best practice and is based on outdated recycling targets, according to researchers from the University of New South Wales.

W

riting in the Journal of En-

indicators, and compared Australia’s legis-

waste recycling system in Australia and

vironmental Management,

lative environment and waste management

need to be improved.

honours student Ashleigh

practices to those of Japan and Switzerland.

• Australia needs to reassess its recycling

Morris and Professor

While the introduction of e-waste laws in

target and associated time frame in a

Graciela Metternicht

Australia resulted in an overall increase in

holistic manner if it is to address the in-

stated that Australia is

recycling, the researchers identified major

creasing e-waste generated by our society.

one of the top 10 consumers of electrical

flaws, claiming that the “rate and types of

“We’re not saying the rules need to be

and electronic products in the world, yet

WEEE generated in Australia far exceed

completely overhauled or rewritten, but

legislation for the management of WEEE

the measures prescribed in legislation to

compared to other countries, our auditing

(waste electrical and electronic equipment)

address or even curb the problem”. The

and compliance measures certainly need to

is in its infancy. Comparing Australia’s e-

authors state:

be enhanced,” said Professor Metternicht.

waste laws to those of two international

• The scope of what is considered e-waste

“We can have the most ambitious targets

leaders in the field of e-waste recycling, the

under Australian law is not broad enough

in the world, but without the necessary en-

study authors found Australia’s approach is

and that new categories of e-waste leg-

forcement and compliance measures these

ineffective and requires greater compliance

islated for recovery and recycling would

would be meaningless.”

measures to prevent hazardous pollutants

reduce public confusion and help meet

from ending up in landfill.

the objectives of the laws.

Morris stressed that the legislation needs to better support local councils, saying, “The

“What is worrying is that our legislation

• There is a lack of clarity over the role

current legislation places no responsibility on

is unable to keep pace with the amount of

of stakeholders including consumers, re-

consumers to dispose of e-waste, and the

e-waste we’re now generating,” said Pro-

tailers and local governments, which are

councils who manage the largest volumes of

fessor Metternicht. “Our recycling targets

responsible for the majority of e-waste

this hazardous and valuable form of waste

may have been good 10 years ago, but they

collection. More effective waste manage-

are not supported to do so.”

are ineffective today. We recommend the targets be revised.”

ment hinges on more clearly defined roles.

She added that the problem is as much

• There are education and accessibility is-

a social issue as an environmental one, with

The UNSW team analysed four key pieces

sues, with consumers in some regional

Australians currently the second largest

of legislation, including the National Waste

locations in Australia needing to travel

producers of waste per person in the world.

Policy 2009 and the National Television

more than 100 km to recycling depots

“This is a culture that we need to move

and Computer Recycling Scheme 2011, and

or drop-off sites. Local councils need

away from, but until Australians stop seeing

established ‘indicators of effectiveness’ by

additional support to improve access.

waste as an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ prob-

which to evaluate them. They surveyed

• Auditing, compliance and reporting meas-

lem, the issues with e-waste will continue to

stakeholders and experts to validate these

ures are weak in every stage of the e-

24 Sustainability Matters - Aug/Sep 2016

grow exponentially,” she said.

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Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...