Garrett taxed by dumped computers

Australia slips behind OECD while e-waste goes unchecked

Peter Garrett

Peter Garrett

Australia is at risk of falling behind OECD computer recycling standards after federal environment minister Peter Garrett refused to mandate a national e-waste policy.

Industry experts say the government has ignored pleas for a fee to be imposed on the import or sale of IT equipment — similar to mandatory recycling laws in Japan, the United States and the European Union — for more than a decade.

Countries with e-waste recycling legislation salvage more than 80 percent of IT equipment destined for landfill, while Australia recycles less than 4 percent. Australians dumped a record 313,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2005.

Garrett said the government is not considering a tax on e-waste.

“I'm not talking about a tax at this time at all, what I'm talking about is us working with the states to create a national e-waste policy” Garrett said at the opening of Australia's first automated e-waste recycling plant.

“I'm not ruling anything in or out, I'm certainly not talking about a tax.

“There are gaps in the system and we have inherited a policy gap. There are arguments in favour of [industry responsibility for e-waste] and the Commonwealth will take up the thinking on a national policy issue.”

Garrett said the government will wait for the competition of a regulatory statement on recycling for televisions and computers due next year before committing to a policy arrangement.

Recycling giant Sims Group general manager Peter Netchaef said an effective e-waste recycling strategy would start at about $3 per desktop.

“Everywhere else in the OECD has recycling laws but that doesn't happen in Australia. We have been lobbying the government for a long time — it has not gone very well, but we may get it within the next 12 months,” Netchaef said.

“When you buy IT equipment in Europe, you pay a small fee which is held in a fund, and [customers] can take it back to a recycling utility at no charge.”

Netchaef said the government should impose the recycling fee at customs, unlike the point of sale tax used elsewhere, because Australia imports its computer equipment.

The government has left e-waste recycling to the private sector, lead by companies including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), despite pleas for government intervention.

Some pundits argue for a co-regulated e-waste recycling scheme that incorporates industry and government regulation, where a regulatory safety net would eliminate competitive advantage gained by organisations that do not participate in recycling. An existing example of co-regulation is the support of the National Packaging Covenant by the Used Packaging Materials National Environmental Protection Measure.

Experts say Australia's annual 140,000 tonnes of e-waste will spike even higher as analogue equipment is dumped during the transition to digital broadcasting.

The hazardous materials contained in computers, including lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, beryllium and brominated flame retardants, pose a significant environmental threat according to the University of Technology, Sydney Programmers' Society.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags e-waste

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Darren Pauli

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?