Friday, May 29, 2009

e-waste --- wrong model

Australian environmental Ministers have supposedly agreed upon a new plan for dealing with "e-waste". This is a plan to charge a "levy" on computer equipment to institute a recycling program, and a "reverse channel" collection model like the old fashioned bottle collection model.

I have some experience in Australia's only successful e-waste program being AMTA's Mobile Muster. I also have been a zealous e-waste recycler taking my e-waste out to the one place in Girraween where I know they wil take my waste (for a fee). One of the challenges with e-waste is the perception by the consumer that handing the device over for "recycling" isn't just giving the equipment to someone who will then profit from it - mainly through re-use rather than the value of recycling.

The model proposed by the Ministers doesn't overcome this problem. It also seems to me as a taxpayer somewhat ludicrous that there will be a levy on one kind of good but not on other goods that wid up as "waste". Used furniture winds up in landfill, but we don't tax it upfront for its disposal costs. Cars get dumped but we don't tax them upfront for their disposal costs.

The second ludicrous part is the idea - like bottles - that taking waste back to a retailler is a good model. The efficient retail logistics model takes goods to stores for sale, it doesn't have a return chain. The efficient waste logistics model takes all waste to central locations (waste disposal centres) where it is sorted and further distributed.

When I buy a new computer I don't have the old one ready as a trade in to take to the store - especially these days where you can copy the data from one to the other directly. So the store as waste point means another trip.

Why in heavens name can't we just put e-waste into our ordinary recycling bins - at least in those enlightened areas where the recycling bin is co-mingled? Maybe monitors won't fit - but let these be delivered to the local waste disposal centre or - like my Council Ryde - provide the same kind of kerbside collection that you can book for bulk green clippings.

Please can we stop the ministers from implementing what looks like a seriously dumb scheme.

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