Emerging Technology

Recycler suggests levy on computers to cut electronic waste

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Peter Netchaef, the general manager of sustainability of Sims Group, has proposed the Federal Government impose a levy on imported computers to curb the build-up of electronic waste.

Peter Netchaef, the general manager of sustainability of Sims Group, has proposed the Federal Government impose a levy on imported computers to curb the build-up of electronic waste.

At the opening of a Sims recycling plant in Sydney yesterday, Netcheaf said an upfront fee for recycling was “logical”.

The proposal has been backed by environmental groups, which claim a levy would help reduce the 140,000 tonnes of electronic waste produced annually.

The proposal was also put forward to the Howard government, but was abandoned on the grounds it would impose unfair taxes on businesses.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who was present at the Sydney plant’s opening, says the Government is still working with the states on drafting new policy.

“We are not ruling anything in or out,” he says.

But the Australian Information Industry Association says a levy will hurt the industry by reducing competition and raising costs.

Josh Millen, AIIA sustainability manager, says the industry prefers a market-driven solution through voluntary schemes such as ByteBack – a computer take-back program.

“I’m not totally against some sort of default levy, but we want to make a level playing field – what we’re saying is that companies need to take more responsibility for their actions,” he says.

“The advantage of this is that companies would have a natural interest in the environmental factor of their products.”

The Federal Government hopes to have a new waste policy finished by June 2009 with the new measures implemented in November 2009, including management for electronic waste.

Electronic products differ from other types of waste, as they often contain toxic materials. However, due to the surge of online retailing, more consumers are purchasing cheap electronic goods at a higher rate.

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