Saturday 14 October 2023

 International E-Waste Day: Australia Needs a Comprehensive Regime

Australia needs a comprehensive scheme that addresses front-end design – not just end-of-life – to address the growing amount of e-waste being created, according to the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).

Today is International E-Waste Day, which aims to reduce the amount of electronic waste discarded. It’s estimated 8kg of e-waste will be produced per person worldwide in 2023.

The new report from the United Nations found Australians generated 187 million pieces of ‘invisible’ e-waste alone (excluding cables) in 2022. This includes items such as vapes, electronic toys, power tools, electric toothbrushes and countless other small consumer items. This ‘invisible’ e-waste accounts for a sixth of all electronic waste by mass.

“The Australian Government recently consulted on a national e-waste scheme, however what was proposed was too narrow. It failed to address e-waste that included battery powered items and failed to address the entire lifecycle of a product, ignoring key elements such as resign and repair. These elements are vital to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s ambition of creating a circular economy and designing out waste and pollution,” according to WMRR Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan.

“There needs to be greater emphasis on producers to design better and take real responsibility for the products they make, including repair and reuse,” she said. 

“The waste and resource recovery sector will manage e-waste in the safe and responsible manner we have done for decades. However, we need to get away from ‘the bin it if it’s broken’ mentality - there are no mechanisms in place to create this currently. 

“Unfortunately, the Australian Government’s current proposal amounts to little more than a ‘pay and throw’ scheme, which fails to address waste avoidance, to drive change in design, to promote repair or re-use, or to create markets for the recyclate. 

“Australia must look to Europe which has comprehensive e-waste directives – reduce, redesign and re-use. An excellent scheme already exists, and the Federal Government should simply adopt it in full,” she said.