With the emergence of digital revolution and industrialization the waste disposal has been becoming a great challenge for most nations. This technological advancement of recent years has decreased the usage of television and phones and that have resulted in three times faster growing waste disposal stream that others (Ong 2015). E-waste or electronic waste is basically any electronic devices that enters into the waste system, from television, computer, mobile phones to refrigerators, washing machines. The chemical components of the electrical devices are mostly highly toxic in nature and capable of causing harmful impact. This report will try to explore various aspects of Australian E-waste management in details.
Australia is a developed country; however its electronic waste scenario is not similar to other developed countries. The Australian households acquire new technologies at high speed and as a result all other old technological devices getting obsolete. The statistics of e-waste rate has been climbing up as the technological advancements and adaptations are getting increased. Among the e-waste devices computers are considered to be the most hazardous and contributing most significantly to the country’s e-waste statistics. In 2006 the number of recycled computers were 500000 which is very less once the other figures are considered. As 1.6 million computers were thrown away and 5.3 million are unused. The waste management is getting bigger challenge as almost 2.4 million new computers are bought by Australian citizens each year (Ewaste.com.au 2016). 55% of Australian households have a second television set (Abs.gov.au 2013). Only 10% of the private computers and 1% of the televisions are recycled (Ewaste.com.au 2016). It is calculated that the television and computer e-waste will increased by 181 000 tonnes by 2027-28 (Abs.gov.au 2013).
Compare to the rest of the European countries, Australian government’s response to electronic waste management is falls behind. Landfill e-waste disposal is still not obsolete in the Australian federal level. The government applied the National Waste Policy of 2009 in order to manage the waste disposal problem. The policy is supported by COAG or Council of Australian Government and the environmental ministers (Karim, Thompson and Williams 2017). The main objectives of the policy were reducing the waste generation and developing new policies for handling the issues.
This act is effective to provide a definite structure for the government to work on the national waste management. This act was especially designed to manage all the products that reach their end of life. This Act was materialized in 2011 with the aim that it would materialize other schemes with the similar mission, like “The National Television and Recycling Scheme”. Principally the act was planned to work in three ways that are Mandatory, Co –regulatory and Voluntary (Dutta and Goel 2017).
The mandatory framework allows the organizations to participate actively and fulfill all the requirements that should include managing the EOL and labeling of the products and contributing financially to the recycling process.
This is run by the government but the industry funds it and here the refusal would not be easy.
Most companies sign up in the system voluntarily and represent the financial cost. This approach encourages the organizations to voluntarily join the scheme and they are supposed to perform transparent and accountable manner.
Computer and Television covers 23% of the country’s all electronic waste. NCTRS or the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme are potentially the most effective strategy taken by the Australian Government to resolve the electronic waste management related issues. In the mission of recycling, recovering and recapturing the Australian government, local councils, the industrial partners and the e-waste recyclers have joined together to make this mission into reality (Environment.gov.au 2014). The Australian Government takes fund, contracts and monitors the co-regulatory arrangements.
The Stewardship scheme with the NCRTS offers the small business organizations and Australian consumers with the service of free recycling for television, printers, computers and other computer products. Under this policy the organizations have to contribute a percentage of their products in the disposal. The technology industry was to pay 30% of the recycling by 2013 and is expected to get 80% by 2022. The law encourages the importers and manufacturers of such technological devices like television or computer to join the co-regulatory framework. In the first year of operation that 2012-2013 the project helped to collect 41000 tonnes of waste material (Anzrp.com.au 2015).
Two ways are generally considered to execute the recycling, one of which are the pre-determined costs depending upon the production and market share. The other approach is market driven where the organizations have to participate in the competition of free market. However the NCTRS engages in such co-regulatory arrangement that compromises between them. There are other issues related to insufficient funding, instability of business and ever expanding business target level.
The schemes and policies have been resulting in progress of Australia’s E-waste system. The comparison among other European countries the progression is not up to the mark, however the electronic waste is increasing in Australia by 3 times than other waste streams so the actions must be more effective. Australia should be more focused on small devices and consumer electronics, expansive coverage and stakeholders’ shared responsibility.
The Australian Government sees opportunity in the E-waste management as well and the government is considering extending their E-waste system (Golev et al. 2016). Adding more materials will help the nation with additional benefits. Firstly the organizations will be able to collect more number of electronic waste, secondly the greater number of electronic waste will enhance the recycling efficiency that is now per unit recycling cost will be less. Finally the goals and targets will be modified so the investment is also most likely to get revised.
As citizens of a developed country most Australians enjoy newer technological devices relentlessly. The older technological devices mostly remain unused or replaced. The people do not think about what happens to the thrown away waste. The organizations and government also did not act responsibly for a long period. Most electronic waste used to be dumped in the landfill. However the negative impacts of using landfill for electronic waste disposal is unavoidable. The landfills not only misuse the space and the resources but also the health and environmental risks are there. Therefore disposing the electronic waste into the landfills raises the ethical question (Lepawsky et al. 2017). There are problems with individual’s process of managing the electronic waste like through burning or melting the waste. As electronic waste consists of copper or aluminum in high amount, those processes expose pollutants to the environment. The electronic waste management presents two questions in the ethical ground (Heacock et al. 2016). The developed countries like Australia enjoying technological advancements than most Asian or African countries but negative impact they are creating are victimizing the other countries as well. Therefore on the ground of responsibility the waste management of the nation is somewhat promotes the ethical misconducts.
In the recycling of the global electronic waste recycling the developed countries should bear a significant portion of the cost. They citizens have to act more responsibly in order to decrease the waste generation. Unsafe and unregulated recycling practice must be resisted and the recycling process should promote local employment.
The following methods can be adapted in order to resolve the issues related to electronic waste management in Australia.
The recycling organizations with the support of the national and state governments must implement the 3R initiatives effectively. Reduce, reuse and recycle are the 3 initiatives that the authorities must be focused on. The toxic substances in the electronic devices must be reduced , the usable parts must be reused and the manufacturers have to consider the waste itself as resources.
The manufacturers and designers of the electronic devices are encouraged to evaluate every stage of the product’s life and apply changes to reduce energy and resources in order to resist pollution. The recycling framework would become more effective if the shared responsibility is added to the ERP. As Australia is targeting to increase the recycling by 80% through the NTCRS, the interaction between the national and state government will become more crucial.
The Australian citizens can take significant role in the mission of country’s successful waste management system. The citizens are principle consumers of the electronic goods they must be careful regarding disposing of the old devices. They also get adequate knowledge regarding the risks and negative impacts of the electronic waste.
BAN or Basel Action Network has suggested that all the developing countries must create a waste management system that is environment friendly. Australia should follow the principles to build up a hazard free and sustainable system.
It is evident that Australia could engage more actively in the waste management and recycling process. The expanding of E-waste products will help the country to enhance their waste management system through reducing the toxics and valuing the resources. The country has to acknowledge the unethical practice of disposing more E-waste than other developing countries. Engineers, government and citizens must take active role in fulfilling the goal of developing an effective and sustainable electronic waste management system.
Abs.gov.au. 2013. Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2013. [online] Available at: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/4602.0.55.005~2013~Main+Features~Electronic+and+Electrical+Waste?OpenDocument [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Anzrp.com.au. 2015. Global e-waste systems Insights for Australia from other developed countries. [online] Available at: https://anzrp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Global-e-waste-systems-A-Report-for-ANZRP-by-EIU-FINAL-WEB.pdf [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Cleanup.org.au. 2015. E-Waste Fact Sheet 2015. [online] Available at: https://www.cleanup.org.au/files/clean_up_australia_e-waste_factsheet.pdf [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Department of the Environment and Energy. 2016. National Waste Policy. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/national-waste-policy [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Dutta, D. and Goel, S., 2017. Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Generation and Management. In Advances in Solid and Hazardous Waste Management (pp. 249-266). Springer, Cham.
Ewaste.com.au. 2016. Australia’s E-Waste statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.ewaste.com.au/ewaste-articles/australia-ewaste-statistics/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Golev, A. and Corder, G. 2017. Quantifying metal values in e-waste in Australia: The value chain perspective. [online] Sciencedirect.com. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0892687516303685 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Golev, A., Schmeda-Lopez, D.R., Smart, S.K., Corder, G.D. and McFarland, E.W., 2016. Where next on e-waste in Australia?. Waste Management, 58, pp.348-358.
Heacock, M., Kelly, C.B., Asante, K.A., Birnbaum, L.S., Bergman, Å.L., Bruné, M.N., Buka, I., Carpenter, D.O., Chen, A., Huo, X. and Kamel, M., 2016. E-waste and harm to vulnerable populations: a growing global problem. Environmental health perspectives, 124(5), p.550.
Karim, S.M., Thompson, S. and Williams, P., 2017. Co-benefits of low carbon policies in the built environment: An investigation into the adoption of co-benefits by.
Lepawsky, J., Araujo, E., Davis, J.M. and Kahhat, R., 2017. Best of two worlds? Towards ethical electronics repair, reuse, repurposing and recycling. Geoforum, 81, pp.87-99.
Ong, J., 2015. Practical strategies for sustainable packaging. Waste Management and Environment, 26(1), p.29.
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