Australia stuck in e-waste dark ages

E-waste is contaminating our soil and waterways three times faster than general waste. But industry, government and consumers aren't doing enough to combat the problem

By the end of this year, Hewlett-Packard claims it will have recycled nearly half a billion kilograms of IT equipment worldwide, while IBM offers a global initiative allowing companies to recycle old equipment, as well as a local recycling initiative


But according to Dell's communications manager, Paul McKeon, Dell is the only computer manufacturer or retailer in Australia to offer free pickup and recycling for any of their old PCs, as well as being the only vendor to offer a local paid recycling service for consumers.

"Around this time last year the ABS came out with an estimate that said around 3 million PCs (including notebooks and desktops) are bought in Australia each year," McKeon said.

He said that around 500,000 of those get recycled, some 1.8 million are sent to landfill, and the remainder end up in storage.

"If you look at what Dell recycled last year through our programs, we recycled around 300 tonnes of PCs last year, and even that is a very small proportion of all the PCs that were bought last year," McKeon said.

Dell has hosted six free community recycling days in Australia and New Zealand since 2005. HP, Apple, and Acer have each held their own one-off recycling days.

But Castle says the TEC's patience is running out, and believes these kinds of events detract attention from the more important step of achieving government intervention.

"Piecemeal take-back events are no disguise for back-room lobbying by industry to stop mandatory recycling," she said.

In Victoria, HP and Sustainability Victoria along with the Australian Information Industry Association(AIIA), launched the Byteback scheme in 2005 to boost recycling of used computing equipment, and have since brought nine other leading vendors on board.

"It has currently expanded to three recycling centres and there are plans to expand it again next year," Dell's McKeon said.

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