Environment ministers commit to e-waste scheme

By Angela Dorizas

The Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) has made a “breakthrough on waste”, announcing plans to establish an e-waste recycling scheme for computers, TVs and other electronic waste.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the decision to tackle e-waste was driven by increasing community and industry concern about electronic waste and the lack of progress that had been made in setting up a national recycling scheme.

Garrett said the EPHC would conduct a study of the regulatory impacts of a recycling scheme.

The results are expected to be available for public comment by July, with the final decision likely to be announced at the November meeting of the EPHC.

“The decision to explore regulatory options is supported by the results of a choice modelling study for recycling of televisions and other electronic items that showed consumers are prepared to pay to have these goods disposed of in an environmentally sustainable manner,” Garrett said.

“Choice modelling has only rarely, and only very recently, been applied to gauge people’s receptiveness to environmental policies. It has never before been used in the context of waste or recycling.”

He said the study provided assurance that whatever approach was ultimately taken, Australians were prepared to support an e-waste scheme.

Garrett also announced a government and industry partnership to increase recycling of lamps containing mercury.

The Fluoro-cycle scheme will receive federal funding of up to $500,000 and will be jointly delivered by the Australian Government and the Lighting Council of Australia, with support from industry groups and the Australian Local Government Association.

The EPHC also considered the findings of an investigative report into beverage container deposit schemes. The report outlined potential options for a national scheme, including container deposit legislation and environmental impacts.

The Council agreed to conduct a survey of the community’s preparedness to pay for a container deposit scheme before considering whether to progress to a full regulatory impact statement.

The Council also renewed its support for developing a national waste policy by the end of 2009 and agreed to release a draft framework for public comment during June and July. The policy is expected to be finalised at the EPHC’s November meeting.

Environment groups have welcomed the latest EPHC announcements.

Dave West from the Boomerang Alliance said the proposed schemes have the potential to prevent 1 million tonnes of recyclable waste from ending up in landfill each year.

“This is not a bunch of token initiatives,” West told ABC Radio.

“If the EPHC can deliver the five reforms it is talking about, it will be the biggest single step forward in waste and recycling in our nation’s history.”

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