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Publications archive - Waste and recycling

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

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


3. Computers and Peripherals

Market Overview

Computers and Peripherals consist of:

The Australian computer and peripheral market has grown by nearly 12% per year over the last 5 years. Market forecasts suggest that this current rapid growth stage is effectively over and the Australian market is in a phase of consolidation. While some assembly is undertaken in Australia the majority of computer hardware is imported from global companies, mainly American or Japanese in origin.

The Australian computer industry accounts for $50 billion in sales and $4 billion in exports on an annual basis.

There are in excess of 500 brands in the personal computer market. The five major companies in the Australian market are listed in Table 3.1

Table 3.1: Brand owners and locations
Parent Companies
Where they are based
Apple
US
Dell
US
Hewlett-Packard
US
IBM
US
Toshiba
Japan

A large proportion of the personal computer market (42%) is held by companies other than these major brands.

Major national retailers include:

Harvey Norman currently has 40% of the computer retail market. They are already participating in the Planet Ark collection and recycling program for toner cartridges.

At a state level the following retailers have a significant market share of sales:

3.2 Product Design Trends


3.2.1 General Design Trends


Capacity

The capacity and processing speed of computers is constantly increasing with new chips being released every 18-24 months. This is resulting in old technology being superceded within a short period of time. This is also affected by software, with the minimum operating requirements increasing and acting as a driving force towards the uptake of newer technology.

Printers

There has been a decline in the use of dot matrix technology and an increase in the use of inkjet printers. Dot matrix printers are no longer on the market but it is anticipated that they are still coming through the waste system. Due to their speed and high resolution, laser printers are used where there are large quantities of printing required, usually in offices or schools.

Scanners

The resolution of scanners is increasing, complemented by improvements in the software available to manipulate the images scanned.

Cords and cabling

Design of cabling and connection systems are also changing. Trends include USB ports, Un-twisted pair cords and fibre optic cabling systems.

3.2.2 Size and Mass and Design Trends

The physical size of computers and equipment is generally decreasing despite the higher capacity. There has been an increase in screen size yet a decrease in the bulk and weight of the monitor overall. Units currently produced utilise less material and have a smaller overall weight. The reduction in bulk leads to a reduction in the use of metals, plastics and components, reducing the overall material consumption per unit.

3.2.3 Display Technology Design Trends


Monitors

Decreases in the price of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors have resulted in increasing sales. Even though LCDs are more expensive than Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) there is a significant market switch occurring. Despite the shift towards LCDs, there have been performance improvements in CRTs. Screen size is increasing which is complimented by increasing screen resolutions, improving image clarity (achieved by techniques such as reducing the dot pitch), colour matching and lightweight design.

LCDs are however perceived to have the following benefits:

It is anticipated that CRT monitors will eventually disappear from the market but their existence in the waste stream is assured for at least the next decade.

3.2.4 Materials and Design Considerations

Manufacturers are placing greater emphasis on the recyclability of materials used in PCs and the impact the physical design has on the recyclability of products.

Manufacturers are now reducing the amount of different plastics in their units making it easier to sort for recycling. They are increasingly looking at the type of plastic used to ensure that there is a market for the recycled resin. Plastic components over a certain size are being labelled to aid the recovery of the plastic.

Manufacturers are ensuring that their units are easier to dismantle, thereby aiding the recycling process. There is a reduction in the number of screws used and preference is now made towards parts that clip together.

Due to the introduction of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive in Europe (see section 5.2 for details) manufacturers are phasing out the use of hazardous materials in many of their EEPs. This includes lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants.

Cost and Value

The cost of new PCs is constantly decreasing, making the latest technology more affordable to the public. This is resulting in relatively new equipment becoming obsolete before the consumer may feel that it has returned its full value. The declining purchase price has accelerated the pace of product replacement.

3.3 Computer and Peripherals Recycling Pilot (Western Sydney)

Resource NSW and AIIA undertook a pilot collection and recycling project of computer and peripheral parts between November 2002 and March 2003 in Western Sydney. The aims of the Recycle IT! trial were to test consumer preferences for different types of collection points; to investigate end-of-life markets for reuse, repair and recycling; and to collect data on costs of collection and recycling.

The pilot officially ran for 20 weeks, but collection points remained in place for an additional 2 weeks to allow late drop-offs to be collected in a way which did not inconvenience participating retailers or transfer station operators.

Data collection and analysis for the pilot is currently underway. This section provides some descriptive information and preliminary data from the pilot.

3.3.1 Collection Systems

A number of diverse collection methods were tested, including both 'permanent' (for the period of the pilot) and one-day drop off points. Permanent drop-off points were established at:

In addition, two one-day drop-off events were run, based on HCC collection days. These were run at council works depots. They were promoted thorough local papers and council newsletters.

Four retailers were formally approached through a letter from Resource NSW to participate in the pilot. They were Bunnings, Dick Smith, Harvey Norman and Officeworks. Bunnings agreed to participate. While Harvey Norman and Officeworks were both relatively positive about participating, in both cases a formal sign-off was not possible with the tight timeframe of the pilot.

Dick Smith Electronics agreed to participate, through its Powerhouse stores. The advantage of these was that they are larger stores that are also owned by the company.

The computer equipment was initially collected by the contractor in TNT pallecons, which were weatherproof. These did not work satisfactorily as only 3 pallecons could be loaded onto the contractor's truck. This meant that it would take too long to collect equipment and the planned schedule of weekly collections was not achieved. The solution that was implemented part way through the pilot was to repack onto pallets, which allowed 6 pallets to be loaded onto each truck.

3.3.2 Reprocessing

HMR won the contract to be a service provider for the Recycle IT! project, which included collection and reprocessing, among other services. Equipment was taken by HMR to a central sorting and testing facility in Sydney, where they were classified into four categories, as listed in Table 3.2 below.

Table 3.2: Classification for sorting and testing facility
Classification Condition Proposed market
Grade 1 In perfect working order and looks OK. Sell into the Australian market.
Grade 2 Working but has cosmetic damage, needs minor repairs or is old (e.g. Pentium 6). Send to HMR facility in the Philippines for repair and sale into the Philippines market
Grade 3 Reasonable condition but requires more significant repair. Send to HMR NAMRAC facility in the Philippines for repair and sale into the Philippines market.
Grade 4 Broken, cannibalised for parts, or too old for resale. Equipment classified as Grade 4 was taken to the Melbourne facility for disassembly and recovery of components and materials (more detail is provided in Chapter 6).

3.3.3 Data On Equipment Collected

Table 3.3 shows the type and amount of equipment collected during the pilot. A total of 6 383 pieces were collected totalling 57 tonnes.

Table 3.3: Equipment collected during pilot
Item
Number of pieces
Item
Number of pieces
Monitor
2195
Motherboard
36
CPU
1627
Server
32
Keyboard
817
Photocopier
30
Printer
773
Disks
20
Drive
150
Printer cartridges
11
Cables
96
Speaker
7
Laptop
75
Mouse
7
Miscellaneous parts
66
Circuit boards
3
Scanner
50
Other
26
Modem
50
By catch(1)
312
 
 
Total
6 383
(1) Material not specified for collection in pilot

Collection points

Transfer stations received the largest quantity of equipment. Much equipment was captured as people came into transfer stations to deliver waste, unaware of the existence of the pilot.

A break down of what equipment was collected at each collection point is listed in Table 3.4.

Table 3.4: Collection points and pieces collected
Site
Number of pieces
Auburn Bunnings
483
Chullora Waste Service NSW Transfer Station
1333
Eastern Creek Waste Service NSW Transfer Station
643
Fairfield City Council Recycling Centre
261
Nth Parramatta Bunnings
770
Nth Paramatta Dick Smith
415
Seven Hills Waste Service NSW Transfer Station
1803
Liverpool City Council Works Depot (1 day)
220
Baulkham Hills Shire Council Works Depot (1 day)
182
Baulkham Hills Primary School (1 day pick-up)
97
Castle Hill Primary School (1 day pick-up)
30
Toongabbie Primary School (1 day pick-up)
66
Pennant Hills IBM (1 day pick-up)
80
Total
6 383