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Publications archive - Waste and recycling

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Electrical and Electronic Products Infrastructure Facilitation

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


7. Options for Overcoming Barriers

A range of options were developed to overcome the barriers to increasing the recycling rates of EEPs. These covered collection, reprocessing, funding, management and policy issues. These were developed on the basis of analysing three key areas of knowledge and data:

The options were then presented in an Issues Paper to a workshop of industry and government stakeholders in Sydney. The following sections reflect the range of options that have been assessed in order to identify recommendations for future action.

7.1 Collection Options and Analysis

There are a broad range of options used for collecting products and materials as diverse as mobile phones, household chemicals and clothing. The experience of each collection system was analysed and assessed for its potential application for recovering computers and televisions. The positive and negative aspects of each option were outlined. These are summarised in Table 7.1.

Table 7.1: Summary of Collection Options
Collection Options
Pros
Cons
1. Retail point of sale drop off Comprehensive network / already applied to collection of mobile phones / emphasis is on closed loop / staffed / enhances opportunities for retailers to exploit consumer contact i.e. sales and marketing benefits Stores not designed for receival / high cost of storage / inconvenient for consumers / not perceived as core business by some retailers / consumer education role or obligations unclear / promotion of drop off service not always evident on shop floor.
2. Retail warehouse drop-off (Bunnings etc) National network / adequate space / enhances opportunities for retailers to exploit consumer contact i.e. sales and marketing benefits / some success in computer and paint trials Many do not retail computers and TVs / consumers need to transport / inner suburban sites inadequate / not perceived as core business by some retailers / consumer education role or obligations unclear.
3. Retail delivery back loading Emphasis on closed loop consumer convenience / especially convenient with the delivery of larger products e.g. wide screen TVs / enhances opportunities for retailers to retain consumer contact Not linking purchasing consumer with depositing consumer / most retail is not home-delivered for consumer EEPs (except large TVs) / limited control over outsourced contract couriers and freight companies
4. Transfer stations / municipal depots Well developed network in most areas / staffed / already handling recyclables including major electrical appliances / lower cost / opportunity to further expand services Not suitable for reuse (where exposed to weather) / consumer needs to transport / distances are higher in Sydney / not always an attractive or appealing public destination
5. Hard rubbish kerbside collection Existing service / high rate of recovery / cost efficient and convenient for consumers / concentrates administration into fewer agencies, authorities, associations Not suitable for reuse (not under cover and normally crushed) / security of material / OH&S issues for collectors / depends significantly on local government acceptance and commitment
6. Separate annual e-waste kerbside collection Convenient for consumers / high rate of recovery / opportunity for targeted and high profile events / concentrates administration into fewer agencies, authorities, associations Cost of collection / not suitable for reuse / security of material / OH&S / depends significantly on local government acceptance and commitment
7. Expansion of current kerbside collection Convenient for consumers / cost efficient / concentrates administration into fewer agencies, authorities, associations Not compatible with pickup & crushing / new infrastructure requirements, such as tins/ intermittent flow of waste product undermines commercial opportunities / depends significantly on local government acceptance and commitment
8. Reprocessors or e-waste depots - consumers and/or retailers to drop off Improves direct delivery of products to key destination / low cost / could be combined with annual e-waste drop-off days Obligation on consumers to transport or drop-off product / distance / low recovery
9. Charity / contractor pick up Convenient for consumers / existing high recovery collection / worthwhile social or philanthropic outcomes Limited non-urban coverage / security of material
10. At call collection Convenient for consumers Labour intensive / high cost / security of material

7.2 Reprocessing Options and Analysis

E-waste comes in many forms and the potential to recover different components varies. Reprocessing encompasses activity to refurbish waste computers and televisions for reuse, the utilisation of individual components for reuse and disassembly and processing of individual materials. Options were reviewed on the basis of current Australian technologies, equipment and markets. Issues of cost efficiency and maximising resource diversion were also considered.

Particular attention was given to options for dealing with the glass from computer and TV screens and with the broad range of plastics used in housing electronic equipment.

Table: 7.2 Summary of processing options
Reprocessing Options
Pros
Cons
Repair / refurbishment of whole products for reuse Maximum recovery of value and environment benefit / markets available in Australia and Asia / enhanced materials efficiency / enables social or philanthropic outcomes Many exported to Asia - transferring waste problem and impact at end-of-life / potential for continued operation of energy in-efficient technologies and hazardous components and substances
Repair / refurbishment of components for reuse, e.g. monitors, CPUs, keyboards High recovery of value and environment benefit / markets available in Australia and Asia / enhanced materials efficiency / enables social or philanthropic outcomes Many exported to Asia - transferring waste problem and impact at end-of-life / potential for continued operation of energy in-efficient technologies and hazardous components and substances
Disassembly and recovery of sub-components /reprocessing of materials Avoids hazardous substances or toxic waste going to landfill / markets exist for PCBs and other valuable components / markets for some plastics / leaded glass / unleaded glass Market for leaded glass is limited and no clear commitment from smelters at this stage / low value markets for some plastics but need to be sorted (costly & difficult) / brominated flame retardants in plastics potentially hazardous (OH&S)
CRTs:    
Disassembly and reprocessing of materials Allows front glass to be recovered separately (open-loop recycling). Costly / limited value in materials. No 'closed-loop' recycling market for glass or plastics in Australia
Crushing More efficient. Recovers glass and metals Glass is mixed - must go to smelters
CPUs:    
Disassembly and reprocessing of materials Allows higher diversion of waste from landfill and recovery of precious metals / potential to recover more costs from sale of components and materials Costly / difficult to sort plastics / No 'closed-loop' recycling market for glass or plastics in Australia
Crushing Cost effective / recovers metals / potential to increase recovery as markets and technologies improve / allows collection system to build Most material still goes to landfill
Glass:    
Front glass to fibreglass manufacturers Avoids disposal cost / reuse of materials Cost of disassembly
Funnel or mixed glass to smelters Safe disposal of lead / some added value as fluxing agent Cost of transport and disposal fee
Other applications in metals / ceramics industries Would provide more outlets in Australia / market diversity Not clear if they exist in Australia / low value / little incentive for use
Landfill Convenient / low cost Potential for lead and other toxic materials to leach into groundwater
Plastics:    
Separation for mechanical recycling Maximises value and diversion / limited markets available for clean, sorted polymers / increased DfE and Design for Disassembly activities among electronics manufacturers Limited markets / low value of materials / many recyclers reluctant to take plastics with brominated flame retardants / difficult to identify for sorting / difficult to remove all contamination / Design for Disassembly lacking in older products
Mixed plastics recycling Lower cost No market in Australia at present / tends to have lower value / problem recycling at end-of-life
Waste to energy Potential to recover mixed plastics No market in Australia at present
Landfill Convenient / low cost Flame-retardants have potential to leach into groundwater

7.3 Funding Options and Analysis

There are many models for how the recovery of e-waste can be funded. These acknowledge the inherent value within the materials present and the costs incurred in the recovery cycle, collection, freighting dismantling, refurbishment and reprocessing. The following is a summary of some of the key threshold issues assessed, including the potential for a fee on computer and TV sales to fund end-of-life management issues.

Table 7.3: Summary of Funding Options
Funding Options
Pros
Cons
Recovery fee set at single level Simple / administratively easier Doesn't reflect product size & cost disparity
Recovery fee set at multi-level More complex / administratively harder

Multi-level fee is able to address access and equity concerns
Reflects range of products and economics
Hidden recovery fee is paid by consumers at purchase Keeps fee from becoming a consumer issue Inflates price through the supply chain with no perceived benefit

Lack of clear marker signal so consumers demand DfE.
Transparent recovery fee is paid by consumers at purchase Shows fee openly to consumers and other stakeholders / educates consumers about the costs of recycling / builds support for recovery Some consumer resentment about fee due to perception that council rates should be covering such services
Funds from fee directed to:    
Reprocessors Contributes to negative value of CRTs and other materials / effective short to medium term solution Doesn't contribute to collection / not necessarily a long term solution
Private collectors Contributes to collection cost / effective short to medium term solution Doesn't fully address negative value of CRT's / not necessarily a long term solution
Local Government (for collection) Contributes to collection costs / effective short to medium term solution Doesn't fully address negative value materials / not necessarily a long term solution
Disposal fee (consumer) Incentive to take back Doesn't educate consumers about costs of recycling / doesn't help recycling economics / incentive to illegally dump
Combination of retail and disposal fee Covers all needs (incentive / recovery) Costly/dissipates impact / incentive to illegally dump
Cover material price shortfall (floor price) Links funding to negative value materials Doesn't contribute to increasing recovery numbers

7.4 Management Options and Analysis

Faced with the option of a fee being applied to sales of electronic equipment, issues were explored on how these funds would be most practically and effectively managed. Three broad options were analysed and discussed with key stakeholders.

Table 7.4: Summary of Management Options
Management of Fees
Pros
Cons
Retail or wholesale fee administered by government Commercially independent Could be seen as a tax / loss of industry control / fails to reflect a genuine Product Stewardship approach / perceived problems associated with bureaucracy and 'red tape'
Retail or wholesale fee administered by industry association Commercially independent / demonstrates a Product Stewardship approach via some degree of economic responsibility for e-waste Crosses more than one group / large task for smaller associations

Not considered by some associations as a core activity
Retail or wholesale fee administered by separate sole purpose organisation Commercially independent / demonstrates a high degree of Product Stewardship via a focussed economic vehicle / potential to build and strengthen knowledge and expertise i.e. a sustainable or enduring response Need to establish organisation / ensure appropriate levels of representation among relevant stakeholders

Analysis was then focussed on the key issue of where funds could be legitimately spent to efficiently recover e-waste.

Table 7.5: Funding Formula
Funding formula
Pros
Cons
PC / TV net value - CRT net cost = overall net shortfall or value Meets shortfall on CRT recycling Shortfall varies depending on product and age
+ Administration and monitoring / recording Administration of program needs to be supported / data collection and monitoring essential for management of fund and reporting to stakeholders Need to minimise costs to avoid diversion of funds from recovery activities
+ Education and promotion Essential to ensure maximum recovery / enhances opportunities for retailers to exploit consumer contact i.e. sales and marketing benefits Costly / need to co-ordinate with other waste education programs
+ Grants for R & D / infrastructure Support needed for market development, particularly for plastics (e.g. IRIS program) / Support needed for infrastructure for collection and processing / opportunity for local, state and territory governments to share in funding infrastructure development Funding process needs to be fair and transparent within a strategic framework / need to ensure R&D funding is effectively allocated and risks minimised
+ Rebate for disposing consumer Provides an incentive for consumers to bring product back Gives a misleading message to consumers, i.e. the waste product appears to have a value

7.5 Policy Options and Analysis

There are ranges of policy measures that have been utilised overseas or with other products in Australia. These are in no way seen as exclusive options but were assessed for their potential to enhance the cost efficient recovery of e-waste. The options include measures related to manufacture and sales, as well as disposal and recovery.

Table 7.6: Policy Measures
Policy Measures
Pros
Cons
Landfill ban on PCs/TVs Reduce the need to "convince" business & consumers to dispose correctly / cost efficient / builds volume / supports investment by reprocessors and provides some degree of longer term business confidence Need to enact at state level / need to ensure adequate diversion opportunities & infrastructure (set target date for bans and support infrastructure development) / extra resource to ensure effective enforcement / incentive to illegally dump
Landfill ban on e-waste As above As above

Need to ensure recycling market outlets for full range of e-waste
Requirement for all waste to be treated before disposal As above As above
Education program support Greater consumer awareness / increased compliance and awareness recovery / opportunity to facilitate attitudinal and behavioural change within the context of Sustainable Consumption Need to match message to local situation (eg. urban/rural)
Restricted substances and bans on specific materials (EU consistent) Reduces toxicity of e-waste stream / positive intervention early in the product life cycle / most electronics manufacturers already complying in overseas jurisdictions with restricted substance regulations Needs to be consistent with overseas requirements and timing / increased compliance costs for manufacturers and reprocessors / increased public cost of government administering restricted substance regulations / need to effectively feedback associated requirements and/or regulations to product development teams at head office (primarily overseas)
Design for disassembly requirements (report initiatives/ eliminate barriers) Improves recycling efficiency / ensures consistent industry response / embodies high levels of innovation that can be transferred / growing level of practical application and real world case studies among the electronics industry overseas Needs to be consistent with overseas requirements / difficult to regulate compliance / need to effectively feedback associated requirements and/or regulations to product development teams at head office (primarily overseas)
Independent jurisdictional approaches Flexibility for governments to respond to local context / policy / individual jurisdictions can take a lead approach and set national benchmarks Doesn't meet industries needs for national uniformity / may not support most cost-efficient systems / lengthy timeframe to achieve national application
Government recognition of national codes of practice and voluntary measures Flexibility for industry sectors or companies to respond in the most cost-effective way Relies on voluntary industry commitments / problem of 'free-riders' / lack of consistency between sectors / may lead to inefficiencies
One national agreement ('Covenant') between all spheres of government and all industry sectors, agreed on a voluntary basis National consistency / flexibility for industry sectors or companies to respond in the most cost-effective way Doesn't allow for different recovery systems or funding models between products / lengthy timeframe to achieve national application
Covenants agreed between all spheres of government and specific sectors (e.g. TVs, computers etc) National consistency / more flexibility for industry programs to be tailored for specific product groups May lead to inefficiencies through dual systems / lengthy timeframe to achieve national application
Voluntary agreement supported by NEPM that recognises 'approved industry schemes' Administratively efficient / administrative structure already in place

Commercially neutral ('free-rider' problem minimised) / nationally consistent approach
Lengthy timeframe to reach national agreement and implement through all jurisdictions