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Electrical and Electronic Products Infrastructure Facilitation

Prepared in association with Centre for Design at RMIT and Product Ecology Pty Ltd
Department of the Environment and Heritage, January, 2004

1. Introduction

Project Aim

In 1999, electrical industry groups approached the Australian Government with a proposal to develop product stewardship guidelines for the industry. As a result, the Electrical and Electronic Industry Product Stewardship Framework document was produced. In 2002 a National Waste Framework initiative commenced with the goal of developing proposals for action on priority waste streams and issues. The progress of both initiatives was slow and the Environmental Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) ministers wanted advice on ways to accelerate the development of the Product Stewardship or framework strategy.

Each year in Australia over one million computers and televisions become obsolete. This includes equipment that is no longer functional or equipment discarded due to obsolescence. It is anticipated that this will increase over time as the technology becomes more affordable and the markets increase in size.

There is an increasing need to better manage and reduce waste. There is increasing pressure on landfill space with inner Sydney landfills expected to utilise all available capacity by 2010. Components of both televisions and computers are hazardous and can contaminate the land and groundwater as they break down. This is becoming more prevalent as the materials break down and landfills age.

There is a need to consolidate available knowledge to identify a strategy for implementation in conjunction with stakeholders. The knowledge and experience gained through the two recent collection pilots in Melbourne and Sydney will be particularly useful. Industry stakeholders have already undertaken a considerable amount of work on Action Plans as part of Product Stewardship negotiations, and many already have considerable experience gained through their company's involvement in take-back and recycling programs in other countries. This provides a very solid and positive foundation on which to build on a national program to recover and recycle electrical and electronic products.

This desktop study brings together the outcomes of these earlier studies and analyses new information on product stewardship issues associated with EEP infrastructure. In addition industry opinion was sought through a range of workshops, interviews and surveys. Reports and projects drawn on for this study include:

The steering committee for this study is made up of:

The focus of this study is outlined below in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1: Focus of study
Brief Addressed
Provide options for the facilitation of regulatory paths for industry Section 9.9

Section 7

Appendix B
Provide options for overcoming technical barriers to recycling including:

a) hazardous materials;

b) lead glass screens; and

c) plastics containing brominated flame retardants.

Section 6

Section 7.2

Section 9.4
Undertake an audit of existing collection and recycling infrastructure in Australia and provide options for integrating electrical and electronic equipment. Section 2.3

Section 3.3

Section 4.2

Section 7.1

Section 8.2.1

Section 9.2
Provide information on collection, disassembly and recycling costs for computers and TVs Section 4.2.5

Section 5.3.4

Section 6.7

Section 8.2.2

Section 7.3

Section 9.5
Analyse markets to assess fate of products after disassembly, and summarise the issues relating to end markets Section 6.5.3

Section 6.6.1

Section 6.8

1.2 Methodology

Phase 1 - Project Inception

An inception meeting was held with the Steering Committee and the consultants (RMIT the Centre for Design and Nolan-ITU). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the overall management of the project and identify the key stakeholders involved. The key stakeholders were then contacted by letter and informed that the study was being conducted and that their input to the project would be sought. The scope and limitations of the study were also provided.

Phase 2 - Desktop Review and Audit

A desktop review was undertaken to bring together all of the data on Electrical and Electronic Products (EEP) waste, particularly with respect to currently available computer and television waste generated by businesses and residents within Australia. At this stage of the project an audit of current infrastructure was conducted. Current drop-off, recovery and recycling programs were identified through research and discussions with industry contacts and stakeholders.

Phase 3 - Stakeholder Consultation

Key stakeholders were interviewed to ascertain their views on barriers and strategic options, with respect to improving the recycling rates of EEPs.

Phase 4 - Option Development

On the basis of the data review, audit and stakeholder interviews, a series of options were developed for collection and recycling of priority waste streams.

A multi-criteria analysis was used to determine which options are most feasible. The options were then ranked according to the scores achieved during this analysis. Factors taken into consideration included economic feasibility, practicality, stakeholder acceptance, consumer acceptance, funding required, management required and the overall effectiveness in diverting EEP from landfill.

An analysis of the risks associated with each possible option was undertaken. The primary risks assessed related to a proposed option that has a good chance of success, given the economic, attitudinal and regulatory constraints present, which may be beyond the ability of industry or Governments to change.

The likely level of government support, industry support and other resources available to implement programs was also taken into account in the analysis.

Phase 5 - Development of Preferred Models

On the basis of the multi-criteria and risk analyses a number of preferred models were further developed. This was done by taking into account a range of operational issues, such as:

The outcomes of this phase of the project were presented as an Issues Paper to the Steering Committee and used as a basis for consultation with stakeholders.

Phase 6 - Option Development/Stakeholder Acceptance

Stakeholder Workshop

A one-day workshop was held to discuss the Issues Paper with stakeholders, the aim of which was to "test" the preferred models and achieve consensus about the way forward.

Community Focus Group

The focus group proposed included a broad cross-section of the community (by age, sex and occupation). While not intended to be representative, it provided an indication of the level of acceptance each model will have in the community, and identified issues and barriers that had not been considered previously.

Refinement of the preferred models

The preferred models were refined on the basis of feedback and input gained through the industry workshop and community focus group. This will help to ensure stakeholders' acceptance of, and support for, the final models presented to DEH.

Phase 7 - Reporting

A draft report, consolidating the desktop review, stakeholder consultation, broad strategy and preferred options into a single comprehensive document, has been prepared and submitted for review and comments.

A final report was prepared for consideration by the Steering Committee and subsequent release for discussion.