Expanding the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) to include all electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) will help foster economies of scale, according to a new report from the Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform (ANZRP).
“For a large country like Australia, waste EEE is transported over great distances to deliver it to recyclers mostly located in capital cities,” the report reads.
“Expanding the scope of the NTCRS will result in increased efficiencies in transport, as well as recycling and material recovery processes. This is highly likely to lower the NTCRS cost per unit recycled.”
The report follows the Federal Government’s Product Stewardship Act 2011 review, which recommends expanding the NTCRS to include all electrical and electronic products with a plug or battery.
With Australia generating an estimated 554,000 tonnes of EEE each year, ANZRP’s report shows the economic, social and environmental benefits that a scope expansion would generate, while outlining the need for a holistic approach to product stewardship.
“As the demand for new technology increases so does our e-waste footprint, which highlights the widespread need for government and industry to work collaboratively to develop policies that specifically address recycling and reuse,” ANZRP CEO Warren Overton said.
“Currently, valuable materials that otherwise could be in market are ending up in landfill, which is why we are calling for all waste EEE to be included in the NTCRS.”
The report suggests that Australia’s waste crisis is a unique opportunity that has substantial benefits to the economy, job sector and the environment.
“Conserving precious raw materials and keeping EEE out of the waste stream will allow Australia to become less reliant on natural resources and international supply chains, making our economy more resilient and resource rich,” Overton said.
“We’re immensely proud of the results generated through our recycling programs, yet this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“These benefits would substantially increase if the NTCRS expanded its scope to include all EEE waste, which would present a bright future for Australia.”
Through ANZRP’s TechCollect recycling program, the organisation recycled 22,014 tonnes of NTCRS regulated e-waste in 2018-2019.
According to the report, expanding the NTCRS would allow EEE waste to be managed in a nationally consistent manner, in turn reducing public confusion and encouraging greater community participation.
Scope expansion would prevent free-riders and create an even playing field, the report argues. It would also prevent multiple product stewardship schemes, thereby reducing overheads and making compliance and enforcement activities more efficient.
The report also suggests investigating how re-use can be integrated with the NTCRS.
“Product repair and re-use initiatives represent an untapped tool in Australia’s product stewardship toolkit and at present, no product stewardship scheme operating in the country includes targets or incentives for this type of activity,” the report reads.
“There is already an established re-use market for a variety of EEE including laptops, computers, multi-function printer devices, mobile phones and other ITC products.
“In the context of batteries and PV panels, re-use could make renewable energy options more accessible to the community, particularly in low socio-economic groups.”
In order for an expanded NTCRS to operate and function, ANZRP is calling for ongoing government support.
On a federal level, ANZRP highlights the importance of ongoing enforcement of the scheme’s legislated requirements, as well as sustainable procurement strategies that stimulate market demand for materials recovered through EEE product stewardship schemes.
On a state and territory level, ANZRP calls for continued funding for collection and treatment infrastructure and skills-based training, to increase capacity and ensure safe and environmentally responsible collection and treatment operations.
“As with the federal tier, state and territory governments should implement sustainable procurement practices that market demand for materials recovered through EEE product stewardship schemes,” the report reads.
“Victoria’s recently announced sustainable procurement policy Recycled First is a good example, which identifies these practices as fundamental to close the loop on circular economics and support ongoing product stewardship development.”