The creation of TechCollect

Warren Overton from TechCollect explains to Waste Management Review how the organisation’s free service is keeping TVs and computers out of landfill.

Six years ago, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) was established for Australians to recycle their old electronics. Large companies that manufacture or import computers or televisions in Australia are required to help fund the scheme.

This led to the creation of TechCollect, led by the Australian and New Zealand Recycling Platform (ANZRP), to reduce the nation’s waste by collecting their old technology.

Since 2011, TechCollect has recycled more than 135,000 tonnes of e-waste. Annually this comprises around 12,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 10,000 cars, alongside valuable materials such as gold and palladium.

Warren Overton, Chief Executive Officer of the ANZRP, says the scheme is industry funded, meaning it can provide services for local councils and organisations for free.

“Market research has shown there is a big gap in understanding about free recycling services available. Because our membership, made up of world-leading IT companies, pays for the logistics and recycling of the products created, we can provide a free service,” he says.

“Our annual percentage target for recycling at the moment is 62 per cent, but we’re moving towards hitting 80 per cent. The NTCRS has been an amazingly successful program that has diverted over 282,000 tonnes of e-waste from landfill around the country.”

There are currently more than 100 collection points in Australia for the TechCollect program with recyclers in each state keeping logistical costs low.

“We offer bins, signage and training for free to councils, with many councils joining the program after they learn about how successful and cost effective TechCollect is,” he says.

Warren says Australia’s sparse population density can make reaching regional areas difficult. However, TechCollect has been able to find opportunities in regional communities.

“One of the ways regional councils can make e-waste recycling cheaper is through collaboration and aggregation. For example, if a council has six towns, leveraging the existing infrastructure to deliver discarded electronics to a central location can ease the logistical burden,” Warren explains.

“Innovation in the processing sector are also helping regional areas, with some really exciting opportunities in ‘micro factory’ technology currently being designed by the University of New South Wales.”

Warren says one of the biggest barriers to electronics recycling is data security.

“People are concerned about their personal data, and rightfully so. It can be difficult to clear a device, but there is usually information available online on how to do it. We are investigating ways to make it easier for people before recycling their old technology,” Warren says.

Education is also an important part of TechCollect’s program, which funds promotion and community awareness campaigns like the Young E-Waste Hero awards. “Schools are filled with digital natives, so it’s important to educate children early about how to properly recycle of their technology. Consistent, simple, and constantly reinforced awareness of the services available means people will be more likely to recycle.”