E-Waste Stewardship | From E-Waste to E-Resource | Imperatives | Course | E-Waste | Recycling | Packaging | Energy Ratings | Environment and ICT | ICT Enablers
Marghanita da Cruz
May 2010, Post Script
Abstract: E-Waste, Electronic and Electrical waste, provides significant opportunity and threat. E-Waste contains valuable metals such as gold, silver, copper and nickel. It also contains expensive to produce and relatively easy to recycle aluminum and heavy metals lead and mercury. However, significant amounts of E-Waste ends up buried in landfill, from where the lead and mercury leaches out, contaminates soil and water and enters the human food chain.
The Problem | Logistics of the Reverse Supply Chain | Collection Schemes | Processing E-Waste or E-Cycling | Policies, Standards, Regulations and Legislation | Conclusion | Postscript: 2011 Legislation | Regulation Amendment 2012 | Batteries | Level 1 Recycling | Councils |References
High levels of Mercury in fish has prompted authorities to issue advice on the amount of some types of fish that should be consumed by pregnant women, young children and the general population 1.
However, Mercury is a vital component in energy efficient fluorescent lighting. When electrodes energize the mercury vapor it emits ultraviolet (UV) energy. A phosphor coating absorbs the UV energy and converts it into visible light 2
Fluorescent lights provide the backlighting for LCD TVs and Laptop screens 3, where energy efficiency translates into a longer battery life.
FluoroCycle (www.fluorocycle.org.au) is a voluntary, national scheme that aims to increase recycling of mercury-containing lamps. It commenced operations on 21 July 2010. The initial focus of the scheme is on those sectors that account for the largest consumption of mercury containing lamps, the commercial and public lighting sectors....A variety of lamp types used in Australia require mercury to operate. Generally, the higher the power usage, the more mercury that is required to operate the lamp...www.environment.gov.au
Management and disposal by businesses of fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury-containing bulbs are regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Universal Waste Rule (UWR) and Subtitle C hazardous waste regulations...www.epa.gov
Mobile Telephones contain valuable Copper, Silver, Gold, Palladium and Platinum 4. At a spot price of around AUD1250 (14 April 2010), if the the 7500lbs of Gold alone could be recovered from 100 million mobile phones 5it would be worth 150 million Australian Dollars 6.
In 2005 alone, 700 million phones were discarded worldwide 7.
Data and Power cables contain valuable copper. These copper cables are so valuable that the theft of live wires does occur 8.
Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), Lithium and Alkaline batteries are toxic and their transport and storage needs to conform to safety requirements 9, designed to protect the enviroment and people handling the items. Their environmental cost of mining these materials also provides a compelling reason to recycle the materials in Batteries and Capacitors...more
A standard sized cathode ray tube (CRT) computer monitor or TV contains kilos of lead 9. If CRTs go into landfill the lead can leach out and contaminate surrounding soil and water.
However, despite the valuable and toxic content of E-Waste, without processing systems and complementary logistics, E-Waste has to be stored or it ends up in Landfill.
India discarded 42 million tonnes of E-Waste in 2008. The growth in demand for new equipment is in India's Rural areas and smaller cities and towns. In 2008/9 India had 500 million mobile phone users. Yet it was only second to China in the number of users. Such a demand for new equipment and the inevitable discarding of obsolescent equipment, creates a critical need for a reverse supply chain to recycle E-Waste 10
The recycling of the materials in E-Waste involves a number of stages, which may occur at different locations. Logistics therefore plays a significant role in recycling E-Waste.
Classified as a hazardous waste , the transportation of E-Waste is restricted under the 1992 “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal” 11
The first step in recyling is stopping E-Waste from going to landfill at the end of its useful life. The E-Waste needs to be collated and transported to where it can be sorted and channeled to appropriate processing.
The first stage in the recovery of the materials in E-Waste is mechanical disassembly. The products are disassembled and different parts may need to be transported to disparate location for further processing.
For example Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) may go to lead smelters where the lead is separated from the glass or to a manufacturer who can create new leaded glass products. Different kinds of plastics need to be separated for different kinds of processing perhaps at different locations. Plastics treated with flame retardants may release toxic gases if heated and printed circuit boards need yet another type of processing and may need to be shipped to another location, possibly internationally.
"The demand for special metals used in the manufacture of electronics is booming, but a few countries control much of the world's supply. Germany is looking to reduce its reliance on imports by exploiting the metal that is thrown away in trash." - Urban Mining' Could Reduce Reliance on Metal Imports (Spiegal Online 15 June 2011)
Some households and businesses have been able to separate out paper, plastics, glass and compostable waste to minimise the amount of material ending up in landfill.
Without education, small electronic devices, batteries and fluorescent light globes end up in the bin destined for landfill or on street verges. Without E-Waste systems these items collect in cupboards and garages.
In India an NGO, has collaborated with a school’s “eco club” to “spread the word” about the hazards of e waste. The school has become a collection point for E-Waste from its own campus and the homes of its students, with plans to expand to the local community. 12
In Australia, local councils provide domestic waste services. In NSW, householders are charged specifically for this service. In addition to frequent paper, plastic, glass and other container recycling, there is a landfill collection. Initiatives such as Second Hand Saturdays, bookable Whitegood collection and drop off points for chemical waste seek to encourage the reuse, facilitate the recycling and minimise contamination of landfill by toxic chemicals.
In recent times, some councils, in Sydney, have instigated E-Waste drop off days 13. E-Waste collected in Sydney in May 2010 was unloaded from private vehicles and loaded into shipping containers, at a Council Depot, for transport to Melbourne for sorting.
In April 2010 the Australian Capital Territory introduced a drop off fee, to cover the recycling, of old televisions sets delivered to the territories landfill site 14.
In Western Australia, councils have collaborated to implement Battery Recycling Programme which places a bin to collect used household batteries (A, AA, AAA, C, D, button, 9V and 6V) at council libraries, university residential colleges and business. The batteries are then sent to New South Wales for processing41.
The Friends of Rambutso introduced Rechargeable Batteries and Battery Bins, to stop old batteries ending up in the ocean, earthen pits [landfill] or the bush - friendsoframbutso.com
Mobilemuster is a collaboration between handset manufacturers, distributers and Telecommunications companies who pay 42 cents,towards the recycling scheme, for every handset they import into Australia 15.
Schools, Retailers and Community groups are then invited to host collection points.
Since 2001, Ricoh has offers free packaging and postage for the return of any brand of toner cartridges, toner bottles, waste toner containers, photoconductor units, fuser units, maintenance kits and other E-Waste from othe consumable products. This enables them to achieve a 100% recycling ratio 16.
Epson has introduced a recycling program at its head office, in Sydney. Their own paper waste, cardboard waste, bottles, cans and plastic shrink-wrap is diverted from landfill and sent for recycling. Customers are also invited to return their packaging from new printers to Epson for recycling 17.
Epson Australia offer a lamp recycling facility for old/broken projector lamps. Consumers can return any brand of projector lamps to one of 15 Epson authorised service agents throughout Australia. The lamps are crushed, environmentally sensitive chemicals are extracted and other components are melted down for reuse. Around 97% of the material in an average projector lamp can be recycledsup 17.
In Victoria under a trial being run by the state environment agency and industry partners, individuals and small businesses can drop of unwanted computer equipment at “Byteback” Locations including some retail out lets and landfill centres 18
While reuse is promoted as a wasy to extend the life of computer equipment, the energy use of old computers can be worse than new computers42, batteries need to be disposed of and the charities are faced with the E-Waste problem.
Computer Bank, in Melbourne, accepts donation of late model computers for ongoing use. It also provides a fee for collection service of obsolete computers and does some sorting and disassembly 19.
Mechanical disassembly is labour intensive and requires a knowledge and skills in safety procedures, material identification and disassembly. These skills are taught in accredited pre-employment training course (Certificate I in Employability Skills) 27.
The EU's RoHS directive, sets mandatory collection and recycling targets for member countries. It also specifies a limit on the amount of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and flame retardants in new products 21.
How comprehensively individual products can be recycled depends on the materials that have been used and how they have been used. The first stage of recycling is the mechanical disassembly of products. The components may then need to be transferred to another location or even country for further processing.
If separated and correctly identified, and delivered for specific processing even plastics containing toxic fire retardents can be moulded at safe temperatures into fire and termite resistance fencing and pallets 22.
If they can be extracted, at the required purity, and transported to manufacturing plants, plastics, copper, gold, aluminum and other materials in E-Waste can become the raw materials in the manufacturing of new computer equipment thus closing the loop or in the manufacture of something completely different.
The glass in Computer Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) TVs and Computer Monitors contains lead to shield the viewer from the radiation. The glass is recycled either at a lead smelter, where the lead is extracted from the glass 23 or the coatings and other contamination is removed, in preparation for its reuse in the manufacture of new CRT’s 24.
Recycling aluminium saves a significant amount of energy. Producing 20 cans from recycled materials uses the same power as making one can from raw materials 25.
Aluminum brackets hold computers together and can be recovered mechanically26.
Printed circuit boards(PCBs) contain lead solder and precious metals such as gold and silver however, as there are no processing facilities in Australia 26, PCBs are exported to South Korea for processing 28. The export and transport and handling of these needs to comply with the Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste.
Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride & Lithium Ion batteries are exported to France for recycling 29
The OECD defines Extended producer responsibility (EPR) as “an environmental policy approach in which a producer's responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of the product's life cycle.” In NSW legislation 30 encourages industries to take voluntary action to reduce the environmental impacts of their products. Regulatory EPR schemes will not be introduced where such voluntary reduction schemes have proved effective 31 .
EPEAT evaluates electronic products in relation to 23 required criteria and 28 optional criteria. The criteria include Reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, Materials selection, Design for end of life, Product longevity/life cycle extension,End of life management and Packaging 32
The European Community directives including WEEE 2002/96/EC (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and the more recent RoHS 2002/95/EC (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) seek to reduce the damage to the environment and people involved in recycling by restricting the use of some substances in new equipment 33
REACH is a European Community Regulation (EC 1907/2006) on chemicals and their safe use came into force in June 2007 and is to be phased in over 11 years. It provides for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances.
The REACH Regulation assigns responsibility to industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. Manufacturers and importers will be required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The Agency will manage the databases necessary to operate the system, co-ordinate the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and run a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information.
The Regulation also calls for the progressive substitution of the most dangerous chemicals when suitable alternatives have been identified 34.
The E-Scrap Industry is complex and a number of recurring themes have emerged:- Recycling Technology, Collection Programs, Product stewardship, Legislation and regulation, Reuse and remanufacturing. Markets for plastics, glass, precious metals and imports/exports and incentives, Education and promotion. approaches to environmentally preferable purchasing and end-of-life disposition programs for large corporations and organizations 35.
There has been progress. A 2004 report 36 identified a number of barriers to the recycling of CRTs. These included the cost of collection and disassembly, the lack of an Australian market for leaded glass and the high cost of extracting the lead, difficulty in sorting plastics for processing and the low cost of landfill disposal.
A survey of recyclers websites in 2010 suggests that, possibly due to higher prices for raw materials, some of these barriers have been overcome. PGM Refiners, in Melbourne, claiming to produce 99.9% lead bullion from CRT Glass 37 and MRI, in Sydney, claiming to separate out CRT glass and sending it to a lead smelter 38
While in South australia send CRTs art sent 39 sent for processing into leaded glass suitable for use in the manufacture of leaded glass 39.
As Australians wait for the implementation of an effective EPR National E-Waste scheme, responsible consumers bear the cost of recycling the majority of E-Waste either directly by paying a fee for recycling or indirectly by storing it or as Local Government (Council) domestic waste charges.
Smaller items are probably still going into landfill via domestic rubbish bins, while larger items end up dumped on verges and elsewhere. Recyclers are also sending residue E-Waste from their processing to landfill.
Product Stewardship Bill 2011, Second Reading, Debate resumed on the motion...SENATE Hansard WEDNESDAY, 15 JUNE 2011
New Delhi June 6th, 2011: Greenpeace today welcomed the notification of the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rule, 2011 on Extended Producer Responsibility principle by the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) 1. The notification of the rule makes environmentally sound management and disposal of electronic wastes mandatory...www.greenpeace.org
An Exposure Draft of the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Amendment Regulation 2012 and associated commentary was released on 26 April 2012. Comments close 17 May 2012
The Australian Government intends to make minor amendments to the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulation 2012 to align the products and product codes listed in the Regulations with the revised product codes (published by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service) used in import declarations from 1 January 2012....http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/waste/ewaste/
26 April 2012: The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme provides Australian householders and small business with access to free disposal of e-waste. ...more
In October 2012, Aldi Supermarkets introduced instore battery recycling bins.
"Each year, over 300 million household batteries are thrown away with ordinary waste, meaning a staggering 8,000 tonnes of batteries end up in landfill...That's why ALDI, proudly supported by Planet Ark, has become the first supermarket in Australia to offer a free recycling service for household batteries in every store"....more about Aldi Battery Recycling.
On a positive note, there is anecdotal evidence [Sydney:Salvos Store (30 Oct 2012) and Leichhardt Council, 7 Nov 2012] indicates there is a fledgeling industry of Level 1 Recycling of equipment equipment.