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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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

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

Executive Summary

This Electrical and Electronic Products Infrastructure Facilitation study was commissioned by the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) with additional funding support from Resource NSW1. The aim was to, through a desktop review, identify barriers to collection and reprocessing of Electrical and Electronic Products (EEPs), with a particular focus on computers, peripherals and TVs.

Numerous studies have already been undertaken on the subject of product stewardship or recovery of EEPs in Australia. This study bring together the outcomes of these earlier studies and analyses new information. It also identifies a range of possible actions to overcome the barriers and, following an analysis of these actions, recommends a National Electrical and Electronic Products Recovery Program. The Program incorporates an integrated set of preferred actions to overcome critical barriers to the recovery of EEPs.

The study has involved consultation with a broad range of stakeholders to identify specific barriers and solutions. Consultation has occurred through telephone and face-to-face interviews, a consumer focus group and an industry workshop.

This executive summary identifies the key barriers to collection and reprocessing of EEPs, summarises the recommended National Electrical and Electronic Products Recovery Program, and suggests a possible implementation schedule.

A. Barriers

Barriers to the collection and reprocessing of EEPs can generally be classified into technical, financial, commercial, collection logistics, geographic, and regulatory categories. The key barriers within each of these categories are identified below.

A.1 Technical

There are a number of technical difficulties associated with disassembly and reprocessing of materials from computers and TVs. This is due to the need to disassemble rather than shred whole products in order to recover components and materials.

Computers and TVs have some components that can be reused (e.g. components on circuit boards), hazardous components that need to be reprocessed through non-traditional processes (e.g. leaded glass), and small quantities of metals and high quantities of plastics (with lower recovery value).

The key technical barriers are:

There is a limit to the reuse of circuit boards. While the components of the circuit board can be reused (i.e. the micro-chips, relays, capacitors etc) the board themselves can only be reused if they are transferred into another unit of the same type of product. (Section 6.2)

A.2 Financial

The key financial barriers are:

A.3 Commercial

The vast majority of computers and TVs sold in Australia are imported, with a few exceptions including the assembly of some computers from imported components and the manufacture of TVs by Panasonic. This has in part contributed to a number of commercial barriers. These are listed below:

The large number of 'orphan products' without brand owner to take responsibility for recovery. (Section 4.3)

A.4 Collection Logistics

Collection of computers and TVs from small businesses and households is particularly expensive with the need to find a cost effective collection method. The key collection barriers are:

A.5 Geographic

The key geographic barriers are:

A.6 Regulatory

Regulatory barriers exist at both the Australian and jurisdictional levels. Although not a direct barrier to recycling they effect the final destination of the electronic waste for recycling. The key barriers are:

B. Proposed National Recovery Program

The recommended National Electrical and Electronic Products Recovery Program incorporates an integrated set of preferred actions to overcome the critical barriers to the recovery of EEPs. The actions are presented under technical, financial, commercial, collection logistics, geographic, and regulatory categories.

B.1 Technical

The technical development components of the proposed Recovery Program are listed below.

1 Seek written advice from Pasminco and MIM on the basis on which they will reprocess leaded glass. This should include the cost, pre-processing required, and transport containers. This should follow receipt of the final report on the MIM trial. WWG
2 Develop guidelines for safe reprocessing of plastics containing brominated flame retardants based on the information provided by NICNAS. PACIA

B.2 Financial

The financial development components of the proposed National Recovery Program for electrical and electronic products are listed below.

3 Impose a voluntary and transparent product levy on the sale of new computers, peripherals and TVs. The levy should be applied at the point of first purchase. The levy should be used to fund a large part of the Recovery Program by supporting R&D, infrastructure for collection and reprocessing, support to reprocessors to recover products with a negative value, and community education. The funds should be managed by one or more Producer Responsibility Organisation(s) with the amount to be levied based upon a sound business plan. The levy should be pooled for allocation, rather than kept in separate product based funds.

The levy should be applied to all products, including orphan products, on the assumption that new products entering the waste stream in future years will also be funded from future levies.

Payments to reprocessors, when to cover revenue-cost shortfalls, should be calculated on a quarterly basis to keep up with market changes. This should be assessed upon several factors including product type, age, and market demand.
Brand Owners
4 Consider backup legislation, such as a National Environmental Protection Measure, to underpin the voluntary levy thus ensuring participation by all manufacturers and importers. WWG
5 Consider implementing landfill bans or higher landfill charges for computers and TVs WWG

B.3 Commercial

Most major brand owners are involved in design for environment and product take-back initiatives overseas, and accept that they have a responsibility to implement product stewardship initiatives in Australia. Some are already involved, e.g. through the toner cartridge collection and recycling program recently launched by Planet Ark with Close the Loop and brand owners.

The commercial development component for electrical and electronic products is listed below.

6 Review current restrictions on export of sorted, recyclable materials for recycling in closed-loop programs by brand owners DEH

B.4 Collection Logistics

The collection logistics development components for electrical and electronic products are listed below.

7 Establish receival and transfer arrangements for EEPs at Transfer Stations and Recycling Centres. Support will be required from Regional Waste Management Groups, Councils, and contractors. State Agency Facilitation
8 Establish one-day drop-off events for the collection of EEP products in regional and rural centres and remote communities without access to supervised transfer stations and recycling centres. These should be run in conjunction with Councils, or electrical and non-electrical retailers with warehouse-type facilities and their own car parks. State Agency Facilitation
9 Retail outlets with direct access for consumers and sufficient onsite storage will be a more practical return destination and should be encouraged to receive EEP waste. State Agency Facilitation

B.5 Geographic

The geographic development component for electrical and electronic products is listed below.

10 Provide targeted financial support for local and regional collection infrastructure to facilitate progressive establishment of a national network. State Agency Facilitation

B.6 Regulatory

The regulatory development components for electrical and electronic products are listed below.

11 Review regulations covering export of materials and components separated for reprocessing overseas by brand owners DEH
12 Provide clear direction to industry on the nature and timing of any proposed regulation. WWG
13 Establish uniform guidelines for classification of components and materials as hazardous or non-hazardous waste WWG

C. Implementation Plan

An implementation plan has been proposed for the National Electrical and Electronic Products Recovery Program. (Section 9)

The program should be implemented progressively in line with availability of infrastructure for collection, starting with major cities and regional centres.

ABS Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
AEEMA Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association
AIIA Australian Information Industry Association
AMTA Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association
APC American Plastics Council
ARA Australian Retailers Association
CESA Consumer Electronics Suppliers Association
CPF Central Processing Facility
CPU Central Processing Units
CRC Co-Operative Research Centre
CRT Cathode Ray Tube
CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation
DEC Department of Environment and Conservation NSW
DEH Department of the Environment and Heritage
DfE Design for Environment
EEP Electrical and Electronic Product
EoL End of Life
EPA Environment Protection Authority
EPHC Environmental Protection and Heritage Council
EPR Extended Producer Responsibility
ESM Environmental Sound Management
EWA E-Waste Australia
FR Flame Retardants
GARS Global Asset Recovery Service
HCC Household Chemical Collections
HHW Household Hazardous Waste
HIPS High Impact Polystyrene
HP Hewlett Packard
ICER Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling
IIIEE International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics
KPI Key Performance Index
LCA Life Cycle Assessment
LCD Liquid Crystal Display
LME London Metal Exchange
LST Lithium heteropolytungstate
METEC Matsushita Eco Technology Centre
MPIRP Mobile Phone Industry Recycling Program
NDCEE US National Defense Center for Environmental Excellence
NGOs Non-government Organisation
NICNAS National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme
NPC National Packaging Covenant
NPSI National Product Stewardship Initiative US
NSW New South Wales
OCED Organisation of Economic Corporation and Development
OEMs Original Equipment Manufacturers
OH&S Occupational Health and Safety
PACIA Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association
PBB Polybrominated biphenyls
PBDD Polybrominated dibenzo dioxins
PBDE Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether
PBDF Polybrominated dibenzo furans
PBFRs Poylbrominated flame retardants
PC Polycarbonate
PC/ ABS Polycarbonate/ Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene Blend
PCBs Polychlorinated biphenyls
PCs Personal Computers (including laptops)
PE Polyethylene
PP Polypropylene
PPE Polyphenylene Ether
PPO Polyphenylene Oxide
PS Polystyrene
PVC Polyvinyl Chloride
R&D Recycling and Disposal/Research & Development
RMIT Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
RoHS Directive on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment
SA South Australia
SCATS Sri Lankan Buddhist Temples in Australia
SME Small and Medium Enterprise
SNAM Société Nouvelle D'Affinage Des Metaux
SVTC Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition
TBL Triple Bottom Line
TS Transfer Station
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
VCR Video Cassette Recorder
Vic Victoria
W2E Waste to Energy
WEEE Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
WM-ARG Waste Management - Asset Recovery Group