Archive for November, 2009
So what’s happening to everyone’s old phones? And where do our microwaves and other electronic appliances go when we’ve decided they’ve done their dash?
Chances are you threw the old phone, electronic toothbrush, curling wand and countless other electronic goods in the bin. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released last week suggest that nearly a quarter of electronic equipment and more than half of household appliances thrown out in the 12 months prior to March ended up in our general rubbish bins.
The problem is, while we are fascinated by the latest model of everything, our landfills are clogging up with electronic waste and even worse, much of it also gets illegally dumped in our environment.
On average, we upgrade our computer every 2-5 years, our microwave every 5-8 years, our mobile phone as soon as our plan runs out. We go through countless batteries to keep all our household appliances running – an estimated 8,000 tonnes of alkaline batteries go to the tip every year.
It’s no wonder then that electronic waste, or e-waste, is our fastest growing rubbish type. In fact, it’s being sent to the tip at three times the rate of general waste.
The environmental effects of e-waste are also potentially much more frightening than those of general waste because of what it contains – toxins. Lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt – your innocent looking household appliances are full of these toxins, and when they’re dumped in landfill or in the environment, those toxins can seep into our groundwater, contaminate the soil and potentially even enter the food chain.
We recently had a breakthrough on e-waste in Australia, with the Federal Government announcing a new recycling scheme for TVs and computers as part of a National Waste Policy. See the details here.
This scheme was developed at the urging of manufacturers – so it’s great to finally see industry and our political leaders working together to come up with a solution for e-waste. But that’s by no means the end of the problem – we all still need to take action at work and at home to help curb our growing e-waste.
AVOID: Buy products that will last and are repairable. You might even consider leasing?
REDUCE: Repair your old appliances and gadgets wherever possible instead of buying new ones.
REUSE: Check if local schools or charities can use your old appliances, and always buy rechargeable batteries and refillable ink cartridges.
RECYCLE: Take your old appliances to be recycled – most councils provide e-waste recycling services. You can even donate your old mobile phone. Clean Up offers a free service – simply go to our website www.cleanup.org.au for a satchel.
We can’t help the fact that electronic items will go out of date and we’ll need to replace them, but we can try to minimise the impact our e-waste has on the environment.
Does anyone have any e-waste tips?
Ian Kiernan AO
Clean Up Australia Chairman
I, like many Australians, fondly remember the days when a soft drink can or bottle could be returned for a bit of pocket money. A bottle found on the ground wasn’t simply kicked around, it was picked up, removed from the environment and recycled, and the lucky finder was rewarded for their efforts.
It’s about time we brought back those beverage container refunds.
With our addiction to bottled water continuing to grow, it has never been more important that the scheme be reintroduced. On Clean Up Australia Day each year, volunteers find themselves removing tonnes of beverage containers – beverage containers that could, and should, be recycled. About 40 per cent of all rubbish collected during this year’s Clean Up Australia Day was beverage related.
Australians are pretty good at recycling at home, but where we fall down is when we’re out and about. It’s when we head to the beach, the park, or our beautiful bush – away from our household recycling bins. What we need to encourage is an incentive to recycle wherever we are, and while protecting our environment for our future generations should be incentive enough, it’s clear we need more.
South Australia has taken the lead and increased its refund from 5 to 10 cents, with great success. SA enjoys a recycling rate of cans and bottles of between 75-85 per cent while the rate in other states is less than half this. The benefits are there for all to see – waste becoming a resource, reducing the use of virgin materials, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced water usage, less contamination in recyclables, the creation of jobs; the list of indisputable benefits goes on. Combine that with the fact that a poll commissioned by Clean Up Australia found that 87 per cent of Australians want a national container refund scheme and it defies belief that our leaders aren’t jumping at the opportunity to take a CD scheme national.
The issue has been on the agenda of the Environmental Protection and Heritage Council – a council made up of State and Federal Environment Ministers – numerous times, and it was there again at their meeting in Perth on 5 November.
But the process stalled …… again.
Why are we overcomplicating this issue?
Why is the beverage industry so threatened by the introduction of a solution like container refunds?
Why are our political leaders ignoring the communities they’ve been elected to represent?
Why do we continue to accept the waste of finite resources?
At Clean Up, we’re doing our best to force the wheels of change. Why? Because I know there are direct environmental benefits from a refund scheme on containers; because I also know that such a scheme provides income for those who are prepared to make the effort to collect and return their containers; and because I know our kids will also have another source of pocket money.
How do I know this? Because with the money I raised from bottle refunds when I was a kid I bought my very first boat.
Does anyone else out there remember how good those refunds were?
Ian Kiernan AO
Clean Up Australia Chairman