Ministers agree to national e-waste regulation

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Ministers agree to national e-waste regulation

Federal and state environment ministers have agreed to a national waste strategy that should result in laws requiring PC equipment makers to recycle their products.

Australian Information Industry Association chief executive officer Ian Birks said he was heartened by the landmark decisions made today during the 18th sitting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council in Hobart.

"Industry doesn't look forward to regulation very often but in this case it is great news," Birks said.

"State and federal governments recognised the need for a national, regulated computer e-waste system, something [the AIIA] lobbied for over five years.

"The ministers have made a strong commitment to this direction."

Ministers are yet to agree on regulations.

Birks said he would prefer a scheme that saw "suppliers made responsible for dealing with the waste that results from their products' entire lifecycle".

He said PC makers importing equipment would need to take it back from the consumer at the end of its life to recycle it. "Manufacturers and importers would have to build [a consideration of e-waste management] into their delivery mechanisms and go-to-market model."

 Using such a "catch-all" scheme, there would barely be any need for policing, Birks said.

The AIIA is involved in the Victorian Byteback Scheme, through which manufacturers such as Apple, Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Fujitsu, Fuji-Xerox, HP, IBM, Lenovo and Lexmark pay to recycle their machines.

Consumers can take unwanted computer goods to collection points at rubbish tips and retailers such as OfficeWorks, where the maker is identified prior to recycling. The Victorian Government meets the costs of makers that don't participate.

Birks said that was the problem: "You get free riders that don't participate - they are almost rewarded for it."

The TV industry's approach - a levy on the sale of sets - was not the association's preference.

"A levy doesn't encourage environmentally sensitive design," Birks said. "We would prefer to see companies have a competitive encouragement to introduce cost-effective ways of recycling their products."

He said new laws will "promote the capabilities of environmentally-friendly manufacturers, who will in turn bring in more products with better environmental designs".

"It shifts the pendulum toward a higher degree of interest in the environment," he said.

The Federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts will publish a regulation impact statement for public comment in July.

The Environment Protection and Heritage Council reconvenes in November to formalise its response. 

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