A new independent think-tank Ewaste Watch will launch this Friday with the aim of protecting community health and the environment through accelerating levels of electronics sustainability.
Ewaste Watch will focus on three key questions, are we doing enough? can we do better? and what are the solutions beyond recycling?
The think tank is calling on federal Environment Minister Melissa Price to expand the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme to include all products with a plug or a battery, and ensure that end-of-life electronics are diverted from landfill.
Ewaste Watch is also calling on Ms Price to create a regulated national recycling scheme for all handheld batteries under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act.
Ewaste Watch Director and co-founder John Gertsakis said Australian’s are globally the fourth highest generators of e-waste per capita, producing over 23.6 kilograms per inhabitant or 574,000 tonnes per annum.
According Mr Gertsakis, the world generates 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, with only 20 percent being recycled through appropriate channels.
Mr Gertsakis said there is a lack of effective collaboration, research and action on how to effectively deal with the rapid growth of electronics and the associated socio-environmental impacts.
“Electronic products are proliferating in society, and in many ways have become an extension of us that we take for granted,” Mr Gertsakis said.
“The reality however, is that recycling alone will not deliver the sustainable outcomes and materials conservation required. Greater attention is needed on product durability, reuse, repair, sharing and productive material-use to turn the tide on ewaste and create circular electronics.”
The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme regulated under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act has collected and recycled 291,280 tonnes — roughly 42 per cent of waste arising — of TV and computer ewaste since its creation in 2011.
Mr Gertsakis said this doesn’t include a variety of other end-of-life electronics, most of which are still ending up in landfill.
“There are few if any collection, reuse or recycling options for small appliances, power-tools, photovoltaic panels, handheld batteries and a growing number of consumer electronics devices,” Mr Gertsakis said.
According to Mr Gertsakis, Australian’s import 100,000 tonnes of televisions, computers, printers and computer accessories each year, roughly 35 million pieces of electronic equipment per annum.
“The Federal Government must require any company placing Internet of Things devices on the Australian market to provide a detailed plan for the reuse and recycling of these devices when they are damaged, replaced or reach end-of-life — including how such plans will be funded,” Mr Gertsakis said.
Ewaste Watch’s second Director and co-founder Rose Read said the think-tank will inform, educate, engage and activate key stakeholders across the electronics life-cycle, from design and manufacturing through to retail, government and the general public.
“Business as usual and voluntary programs have barely made a dent in the total volume of ewaste arising, so the urgency for step-change improvement, new business models and positive disruption is now overwhelmingly obvious,” Ms Read said.
“Circular solutions for electronics across the complete product life-cycle is a cornerstone for Ewaste Watch, as is the need to empower consumers to buy less, choose well and make it last.”
Ewaste Watch’s activities will include attention to social and consumer aspects, product design, cleaner production, smart logistics, innovative consumption models such as sharing economies and collaborative consumption, reuse, repair and recycling.
Ms Read said Ewaste Watch will achieve this through knowledge sharing, policy analysis, consumer education, exhibitions and public activations.
Ewaste Watch will collaborate closely with its research partner the Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney, with Professor of Resource Futures Damien Giurco chairing the Ewaste Watch advisory group.
Ewaste Watch will be officially launched by War on Waste presenter Craig Reucassel at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures.