E-waste contains more than 1,000 different substances, including nasties like lead (used in CRT glass and solder), mercury (in switches), arsenic (in CRTs), cadmium (in semiconductors), selenium (in circuit boards), antimony trioxide (used as a flame-retardant) and hexavalent chromium (which Erin Brockovich made infamous). Unlike most general waste, e-waste doesn’t decompose in landfill – it degenerates and damages the environment.
Greenpeace estimates that e-waste is responsible for 70% of the toxic chemicals found in landfill sites and that it’s a serious and growing problem. E-waste is going to landfill at three times the rate of general waste. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that, of the 16.8 million computers and televisions we discarded in 2007-8, 84% went straight into landfill.
Taking responsibility for our e-waste is now a priority, and the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme is the first public e-waste collection scheme in Australia to be funded by manufacturers and importers under the Product Stewardship Act 2011. The goal is to increase e-waste recycling from just 10% in 2011 to 80% by 2021, with a materials recovery target of 90%.
E-waste recycling is a big part of the environmental protection story. It not only keeps toxins out of landfill, it also helps to reduce the emissions, environmental damage and water use associated with mining or manufacturing virgin raw materials. EPSA’s parent company Sims Recycling Solutions already achieves in excess of the mandated materials recovery target. Our processes are as efficient and low-impact as possible, and all our e-waste recycling sites are fully compliant with ISO 14001, the international standard for Environmental Management.
As a Sims Recycling Solutions company, we are committed to fostering new ideas, exceeding expectations and achieving sustainability through responsible resource management. Because of that commitment, another business unit – Sims Metal Management, have been consistently named as one of the top 100 most sustainable corporations at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It is Sims Recycling Solutions’ policy of ethical and responsible decision making, recognising the interests of stakeholders, respecting the rights of shareholders, and communication with customers, investors, regulators and policy makers, which has marked the company as one of the most sustainable enterprises in the world, both environmentally and in terms of financial performance.
At the 9th Australian Sustainability Awards, Sims Metal Management won the special Award for Environment by establishing the lowest carbon intensity in the sector, and for its own innovative strategies for energy efficiency, green energy usage and carbon offsets.
We’re dedicated to preventing e-waste from polluting the environment through landfill or unsafe recycling practices. When you look at the figures, making a difference can seem a daunting task, but every tonne of e-waste is made up of little bits – the few kilos of your computer, that old TV you’re thinking about leaving for the council clean up, even that dead USB stick that’s so easy to just flick into the bin. Bring it to one of our collection partners, and you can leave completely confident that you’ve done your bit to reduce the global e-waste problem, support a more sustainable technology industry, and take better care of our environment.
Sources: ABS (2010) 1370.0 – Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2010 Waste disposed to landfill; Clean Up Australia (2009) E-waste Fact Sheet, Australian Government (2009) National Waste Policy Fact Sheet: Less Waste, More Resources.
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