ISF hosts launch of Ewaste Watch
Australians are the fourth highest generators of ewaste per capita in the world generating just over 23.6 kg per inhabitant or 574,000 tonnes per annum. We are also great hoarders of ewaste with more than 25 million mobile phones lying idle in homes.
On average we import around 100,000 tonnes of televisions, computers, printers and computer accessories a year. That is about 35 million pieces of electronic equipment per annum. Plus, we also import at least 9.3 million new mobile phones each year. The numbers are even more staggering when you consider that the world generated 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste in a year, yet only 20 percent was recycled through appropriate channels.
In response to the sluggish pace of regulatory and industry action, a new independent think-tank – Ewaste Watch – was launched at ISF today to act in the public interest to protect human health and the environment by accelerating electronics sustainability, stewardship and circular solutions from cradle-to-cradle.
As the think tanks’ research partner, ISF will bring research rigour and its trademark transdisciplinary approach to assist Ewaste Watch in its mission to inform, educate, engage and activate industry, governments and the public. ISF Professor of Resource Futures Damien Giurco will chair the Ewaste Watch advisory group.
"We are facing an e-waste tsunami and this requires a fundamental rethink of the systems and standards governing electronics in society," said Professor Giurco at the launch. The establishment of E-waste Watch is exciting, as it provides a platform to achieve real change in Australia, NZ and further afield."
Ewaste Watch officially launched by Craig Reucassel, presenter of the ABC TV series War on Waste. Craig shared his insights on waste, consumption and how we can all act to avoid ewaste in the first place.
Ewaste Watch director and co-founder John Gertsakis says there is a lack of effective collaboration, research and action on how to effectively deal with the rapid growth of electronics and the associated socio-environmental impacts. Most activities are limited to recycling, with no real focus on addressing the impacts of scarce and non-renewable materials used in electronics.
“Ewaste Watch is driven by three key questions: are we doing enough; can we do better; and what are the solutions beyond recycling?” said Mr Gertsakis.
“Electrical and electronic products are proliferating in society. They saturate our existence – how we work, live and play. They are often essential devices that bring functional utility, improved safety and much needed convenience. In many ways they have become an extension of us that we take for granted” said Mr Gertsakis.
“The reality however, is that recycling alone will not deliver the sustainable outcomes and materials conservation required. Greater attention is needed on product durability, reuse, repair, sharing and productive material-use to turn the tide on ewaste and create circular electronics.”
In Australia, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme regulated under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act has collected and recycled 291,280 tonnes (this is about 42% of waste arising) of TV and computer ewaste since the scheme’s creation in 2011.
However, this doesn’t include a variety of other end-of-life electronics, most of which are still ending up in landfill. There are few if any collection, reuse or recycling options for small appliances, power-tools, photovoltaic panels, handheld batteries and a growing number of consumer electronics devices.
The situation across the Tasman in New Zealand is even more parlous, with no regulation or national ewaste collection and recycling service for householders or business. While some voluntary initiatives exist in New Zealand, they are piecemeal with limited environmental benefit in terms of widespread diversion from landfill.
Ewaste Watch will inform, educate, engage and activate key stakeholders across the electronics life-cycle from design and manufacturing through to retail, government and the general public, said Ewaste Watch Director and Co-founder Rose Read (pictured speaking at the launch, top).
“Business as usual and voluntary programs have barely made a dent in the total volume of ewaste arising, so the urgency for step-change improvement, new business models and positive disruption is now overwhelmingly obvious.”
“Circular solutions for electronics across the complete product life-cycle is a cornerstone for Ewaste Watch, as is the need to empower consumers to buy less, choose well and make it last” said Ms Read (pictured below at today's launch). Ewaste Watch activities will include attention to social and consumer aspects, product design, cleaner production, smart logistics, innovative consumption models (eg. sharing economy and collaborative consumption), reuse, repair and recycling. It achieves this through knowledge sharing, policy analysis, consumer education, exhibitions and public activations.