Scrap metal merchants push for IT recycling laws

Scrap metal merchant Sims Metal and recycling group Collex are pushing for a federally-funded computer and electronics recycling initiative in an effort to add some green credentials to Australia's IT industry and bolster their balance sheets at the same time.

While Australia presently has no legislation in place to segregate the amount of recyclable materials from IT hardware purchases, Sims currently charges a fee in Europe to recycle ICT equipment (under the Electronic Waste Directive) and North America to recycle the negative elements of ICT (those that cannot be recycled) from the positive (those that can).

Sims metal Group Chief Executive Jeremy Sutcliffe said Sims Metal Australia is chasing the recycling arm to become a core part of its business in Australia as it is in Europe and North America.

"Landfilling of CRT (Cathode Ray Television) is banned but in Australia it is not, we are happy to provide this service in Australia once there is a viable business model, but the government has to push the legislation for recycling, we are already doing it in Europe and parts of America," Sutcliffe said.

"We currently charge a fee for service because the underlying value of the commodity from computer equipment is insufficient to cover the cost of environmentally processing computers: CRT properly handled can be used in the manufacture of more CRT screens, even the plastic has a market as the band inside that holds the monitor is recyclable and even the yoke is recyclable, the biggest cost is the glass.

"There are two streams of IT equipment-the first is post consumer end of life where the product actually has no value and the second stream is in the business to business space where we are currently talking to some computer distributors who do not know how to return or recycle goods as it is not their core business."

The extent of the Australian recycling issue associated with e-waste has been estimated at 125,000 tonnes annually; Australia's total annual waste is around 22.3 million tonnes.

Sutcliffe added the current recycling challenge for e-waste is in passing relevant legislation for enterprise firms, manufacturers and reseller to recycled used materials.

"The challenge is to properly segregate the green glass [found in monitors] from funnelled glass that has lead in it - we can sit there with a laser gun and do it manually but the challenge is to develop the technology to do it, we are there on the technology side but we need the government to pass legislation in relation to e-waste recycling," Sutcliffe said.

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