WA’s $14 million e-waste scheme to ban appliances from landfill

WA environment minister Reece Whitby. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright).jpg

A decision to ban sending small household appliances and similar waste to landfill in Western Australia will bring the state into line with existing national product stewardship schemes for future circular economies.

From 2024, WA’s unwanted electrical and electronic products, from dinky toasters to broken vacuums, cannot be sent to landfill.

The goal of the $14 million scheme will be to recover high-value materials such as metals from such unwanted devices and encourage the reuse and recycling of products that still work.

Any item with a plug, battery or cord that has stopped working or is otherwise unwanted — including televisions, mobile phones, computers, white goods, medical devices, lighting and lamps — will instead be destined for a new e-waste industry.

Environment minister Reece Whitby issued a statement explaining the scheme would be another step toward building the local circular economy. Last November, the federal government announced its plans to transition Australia’s circular economy by 2030 with a view to curbing greenhouse gas emissions as well as landfill.

“E-waste is a rapidly growing stream of waste containing valuable and rare materials that are critical to reduce, reuse and recycle,” Whitby said.

“Reducing waste to landfill not only moves WA closer to its goal of a circular economy but [also] provides jobs, builds local industries and protects the environment.”

In WA, of the approximately 70,000 tonnes of e-waste produced annually (or 25kg per capita), only 27% is recycled. The volume of e-waste is projected to multiply at three times the rate of general household waste and by 2030 reach 86,000 tonnes.

Drop-off points traditionally used to dispose of e-waste items, such as local government collections and businesses, will be the target of the ban. A total of $10 million from the allocated funding will be invested in recycling network infrastructure grants to grow the capacity of e-waste collection, storage, and processing in WA.

The ban also aligns with the state’s low-carbon goals and supports the vision of the waste-avoidance and resource-recovery strategy 2030.

WA’s Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) is now consulting the public about the design and implementation of the ban. Submissions will be accepted until March 31.

“Having your say will help us understand any industry or community concerns to help shape the e-waste ban to ensure it is practical, workable and effective,” Whitby said.

Last year, Synergies Economic Consulting prepared a cost-benefit analysis of the e-waste ban for the department. The report noted that while the price of collecting, segregation and processing e-waste was generally greater than the value of the materials recovered, government intervention was still justified.

“The most significant benefit driving the results is the gross margin derived from the sale of recovered materials, particularly from high-value material processing. In total, this benefit component is estimated to be $122 million. Avoided landfill costs are also an important contributor to benefits, accounting for $24 million,” the report said.

“On the cost side of the ledger, the most significant costs are collection and transport costs ($72 million) and the capital costs involved in developing additional recycling infrastructure ($32 million). The cost of upgrading the collection network ($3.4 million) is a minor contributor to costs, as is the additional regulatory cost burden on industry ($4.3 million).”

Similar bans on e-waste disposal have been legislated in Victoria and South Australia. Elsewhere, the ACT has banned computers and televisions from being sent to the tip without enacting laws. And Queensland is investing in a co-design program with the E-Waste Watch Institute to develop an action plan for end-of-life electrical and electronic products.

This article was first published by The Mandarin.

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