The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development




"The TNEP book, The Natural Advantage of Nations, will be a very useful educational tool for government and industry in showing how to make the right steps toward a sustainable economy. The Natural Advantage of Nations will provide a graphic and compelling view of the kind of future we all might have if we truly commit to achieving sustainable development."
Dr John Cole, Environmental Protection Agency Queensland





E-Waste Education Course One


Undergraduate Level

Lecture 1: Responsible Actions - Product Stewardship

         

Educational Aim
 

Many developed countries now have some form of regulation in place to combat the issues associated with E-Waste. Many of these regulations were introduced to satisfy the Basel Convention, to varying effect. The four main objectives of the Basel Convention are: 1) to protect human health and the Environment from the adverse effects of hazardous wastes; 2) to minimise the generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness; 3) to dispose of them as close to the source of generation as possible with the environmental sound management approach; and 4) to reduce 'transboundary' (between nations) movement of hazardous wastes.

 

Learning Points

* 1. In 1994, the Basel Convention was created to help 'counter the unsustainable and unjust effects of free trade in toxic wastes'.[1] The treaty calls for the adoption of a 'total ban on the export of hazardous materials from rich [OECD] to poor [non-OECD] countries for any reason, including for recycling... [for] all countries to reduce their exports of hazardous wastes to a minimum and, to the extent possible, deal with their waste problems within national borders'.[2] There are 165 nations that have ratified the Basel Convention and three countries - US, Afghanistan and Haiti - that have signed but not ratified it.[3]

* 2. In responding to pressures such as the Basel Convention many companies are now investigating the concept of 'Product Stewardship' to help define how responsibility for a product is shared among its stakeholders. There are several definitions of Product Stewardship, including: 'Product stewardship is a principle that directs all participants involved in the life cycle of a product to take shared responsibility for the impacts to human health and the natural environment that result from the production, use, and end-of-life management of the product'.[4]

* 3. Product Stewardship aims to:[5]

'encourage manufacturers to redesign products with fewer toxics, and to make them more durable, reusable, and recyclable, and with recycled materials'.

"move beyond disposal to facilitate a paradigm shift toward 'zero waste' and 'sustainable production'".

* 4. The Product Stewardship Institute suggests a 'duty-of-care' approach to assigning responsibility to stakeholders (manufacturers, retailers, consumers and government). 'The greater the ability of a party to influence the life cycle impacts of a product, the greater the degree of that party's responsibility'.

* 5. There are five models for product stewardship. In increasing order of government involvement, they are:[6]

1.   non-intervention (business as usual)

2.   voluntary industry initiatives

3.   voluntary industry-government agreements

4.   co-regulatory approaches[7]

5.   fully regulatory schemes

* 6. There are legislations in force that place the responsibility of end-of-life processing explicitly on the producer. This strategy is referred to as 'extended producer responsibility'. Currently, the European Union, Japan , South Korea , Taiwan and several states of the US , but not Australia , have these types of legislation.[8]

* 7. 'Extended Producer Responsibility is an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact from a product, by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product and especially for the take-back, recycling and final disposal of the product'.[9]

* 8. An effective Extended Producer Responsibility based policy would:[10]

Be non-prescriptive.
Engage the whole product chain, not just point sources.
Consider the entire life cycle of the product.
Prioritise prevention of environmental problems at the source over end-of-pipe solutions.
Provide incentives for the manufacturer to attend to its responsibilities.

Prevent waste.

Close materials loops.

Result in more environmentally compatible products.

* 9. RMIT & Product Ecology[11] identifies other international level protocols and standards for E-Waste, such as improving the quality of information: ' A new international protocol (PROMISE) is being developed to facilitate the embedding of information in products using microchip technology. Information on the chip would include materials and potential secondary markets, as well as instructions for disassembly '.

* 10. According to the Computer Takeback Campaign,[12] starting in September 2006, Dell will take back any Dell product for free, even if you aren't buying a new one. You have to send it back to them, but they pay for shipping. Dell now say on their website ' We are pleased to offer you the opportunity to recycle your unwanted Dell-branded Product for free. Plus, if you buy a new Dell desktop or notebook and select the free recycling option at the time of purchase, we will recycle your old PC and monitor at no cost to you (even if it isn't a Dell-branded Product.)'

 

Brief Background Information

 

Extended Producer Responsibility - Who's responsibility is it?

Naoko Tojo in her paper ' Extended producer responsibility as a driver for design change - utopia or reality?'[13] discusses two studies. The first study investigates the environmental effectiveness of mandatory 'Extended Producer Responsibility' (EPR) programs on 21 manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and cars in Sweden and Japan finding that there is a clear link between EPR legislation and the associated action and that manufacturers take anticipatory action in the face of upcoming legislation.[14] In fact, all participating manufacturers 'acknowledged influence from EPR legislation on their efforts to reduce product environmental impacts'.
[15]

Since the 1990s, EPR has been implemented by several governments, especially those of OECD countries.[16] Molly O'Meara Sheehan of the Worldwatch Institute discusses some cases in her paper ' The hidden costs of the e-economy':[17]

•  "Perhaps the best model so far of 'extended producer responsibility' is Germany 's packaging law, which went into effect in 1991 and has required manufacturers and distributors to recover their packaging and reuse or recycle it."

•  'Since 1998, Japan has mandated producer take-back of electrical appliances; this is now being extended to computers and other electronics. As the Japanese government requires companies to take back products containing lead, companies such as Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, Sharp, NEC, and Toshiba are investing in lead-free technologies.'

•  'Also in 1998, Taiwan started a take-back system for computers, televisions, and large home appliances that requires retailers to accept used electronics, regardless of where they were sold.'
 

Australia (Federal)

Australia is yet to join other developed nations in enforcing product-take back of e-products. Consequently, many Australian arms of e-product companies do not implement the same recycling standards as they do in countries where take-back and recycling is enforced.[18
Regulatory activity in Australia includes:

•  Australia 's regulations are one of very few worldwide that impose pre-export testing. Australia 's effort to implement the Basel convention was 'The Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989'. The Act encompasses e-products for disassembly, re-use, recycling, recovery or disposal.[19] Australia 's 'Criteria for the Export and Import of Used Electronic Equipment' is used to determine whether a particular E-Waste is hazardous. Most computer waste is assumed to be hazardous unless proven otherwise by the exporter.[20]

•  'The National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) - Movement of Controlled Waste Between States and Territories (Movement of Controlled Waste NEPM) establishes a nationwide tracking system for the interstate transport of controlled wastes... similar to how the Basel Convention defines hazardous wastes'.[21]

•  Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association (AEEMA), Consumer Electronic Suppliers Association (CESA), and Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak electrical and electronic industry associations, are developing voluntary product stewardship xinitiatives.[22]

•  'Extended producer responsibility for waste computer and peripheral equipment has not yet been incorporated into the ethos of Australian computer manufacturers. While the international parent companies of many Australian manufacturers have implemented a number of environmental initiatives, product stewardship in the Australian computer industry is currently in its infancy'.[23]
 

Australia (State)

Environment Victoria[24] state that 'the ACT is the only jurisdiction that bans computer waste to municipal landfill'. In a thorough overview, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd[25] summarise the Australian regulations at the state level:

•  Australian Capital Territory: 'The ACT's Environmental Standards: Assessment and Classification of Liquid and Non-Liquid Wastes provides directives for the generation, storage and disposal of waste materials created through the processing of computer components. All materials must be classified as either inert, solid, industrial or hazardous waste, however the tables provided to assist with classification cannot be applied to electronic scrap...'

 

•  New South Wales: 'The New South Wales EPA Environmental Guidelines: Assessment, Classification and Management of Liquid and Non-Liquid Wastes form the basis of the State's waste classification standard, and is similar to that adopted by the ACT Government...'

 

•  Northern Territory : 'The Northern Territory currently does not have any licensed landfill site in operation, requiring all Listed Wastes to be disposed in neighbouring States under the Movement of Controlled Waste NEPM. Works are currently being undertaken by the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment, documenting licensing requirements for handlers, transporters and disposers of Listed Wastes.'

 

•  Queensland: 'The transportation of waste computer equipment or scrap within Queensland may require a permit under the Environmental Protection (Waste Management) Regulation 2000, as it is likely to contain materials that are considered Trackable Wastes...'

 

•  South Australia: 'South Australian legislation, viz. the Environment Protection Act 1993 and Environment Protection (General) Regulations 1994, is similar to Queensland in that it indicates activities which require a licence rather than classifying any particular material as listed or controlled waste by quantity or concentration...'

 

•  Tasmania: 'The Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Waste Management) Regulations 2000 uses several acts and regulations, including the Movement of Controlled Waste NEPM, to define controlled substances. Any manufacturing, installation, servicing or decommissioning involving a controlled substance is a controlled activity under the regulations unless it is shown that the state of the waste does not possess the hazardous characteristics described by the Movement of Controlled Waste NEPM. It has been indicated that computer components would not demonstrate these characteristics when in their solid form, and only those stages of waste processing where materials are separated (e.g. recovery of precious metals) may be classified as a controlled activity...'

 

•  Victoria : 'The overarching principles of the Environment Protection Act 1970 include both product stewardship and the waste management hierarchy. As computer equipment contains a mixture of the wastes listed in Schedule 1 of the Environment Protection (Prescribed Waste) Regulations 1998 it is likely to be classified as 'prescribed industrial waste...'

 

•  Western Australia : 'Controlled wastes within Western Australia are listed by the Environmental Protection (Controlled Waste) Regulations 2001. Controlled wastes must be transported and disposed of only by licensed companies...'


 

References

 

1. Puckett, J., Byster, L., Westervelt, S., Gutierrez, R., Davis, S., Hussain, A. and Dutta, M. (2002) Exporting harm: the high-tech trashing of Asia, Basel Action Network, p. 2. http://www.ban.org/E-waste/technotrashfinalcomp.pdf (viewed 1 May 2006) (Back)


2. Ibid (Back)


3.
Puckett, J., Westervelt, S., Gutierrez, R. and Takamiya, Y. (2005) The digital dump: exporting re-use and abuse to Africa, Basel Action Network. p. 3, Annex IV. http://www.ban.org/BANreports/10-24-05/documents/TheDigitalDump.pdf (viewed 12 July 2006) (Back)


4. Product Stewardship Institute (2004) What is product stewardship? , Lovell University, USA. http://www.productstewardship.us/displayPage.php?pageid=42 (viewed 5 May, 2006) (Back)


5. Ibid
(Back)


6. Environment Protection and Heritage Council (2004) Co-regulatory frameworks for product stewardship: an industry discussion paper, Environment Protection and Heritage Council, p. 4. www.ephc.gov.au/pdf/EPHC/Productstewardship_Industry DP.pdf (viewed 3 May 2006) (Back)


7. Ibid, pp 11-12. This report discusses the potential and impacts of a co-regulatory model in Australia. They suggest 22 guiding principles for a Product Stewardship Agreement. (Back)


8.
Brigden, K., Labunska, I., Santillo, D. and Allsopp, M. (2005) Recycling of Electronic Wastes in China and India: Workplace & Environmental Contamination, Greenpeace International, p. 3. http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/india/

press/reports/recycling-of-electronic-wastes.pdf (viewed 9 July 2006) (Back)


9. Lindhqvist (1992) cited in Tojo, N. (2005) Extended producer responsibility as a driver for design change - utopia or reality?, Lund University, Sweden, p 5. www.iiiee.lu.se/Publication.nsf/$webAll/8D43CC08DD00501DC1256EFA0051513B/

$FILE/tojo.pdf (viewed 9 May 2006) (Back)


10. Tojo, N. (2005) Extended producer responsibility as a driver for design change - utopia or reality?, Lund University, Sweden, p i. www.iiiee.lu.se/Publication.nsf/$webAll/8D43CC08DD00501DC1256EFA0051513B/

$FILE/tojo.pdf (viewed 9 May 2006); OECD (2001) Extended Producer Responsibility: A guidance manual for governments, OECD, p. 29. www.oecd.org/publications/e-book/9701041e.pdf (viewed 12 May 2006) (Back)


11. RMIT & Product Ecology (2004) Electrical and electronic products infrastructure facilitation, RMIT and Product Ecology, p. 45. http://www.deh.gov.au/industry/waste/electricals/infrastructure (viewed 9 May 2006) (Back)


12. See www.computertakeback.com (Back)


13. Tojo, N. (2005) Extended producer responsibility as a driver for design change - utopia or reality?, Lund University, Sweden. www.iiiee.lu.se/Publication.nsf/$webAll/8D43CC08DD00501DC1256EFA0051513B/

$FILE/tojo.pdf (viewed 9 May 2006) (Back)


14. Ibid, pp iv and vii. (Back)


15. Ibid, p vii. (Back)


16. Ibid, p i. (Back)

17. O'Meara Sheehan, M. (2003) The hidden costs of the e-economy, Worldwatch Institute. http://www.worldwatch.org/live/discussion/81 (viewed 15 May 2006) (Back)

18. Environment Victoria (2005) Environmental report card on computers 2005: computer waste in Australia and the case for producer responsibility, Environment Victoria, p. 17. http://www.envict.org.au/file/EWaste_blue_report_card.pdf (viewed 9 July 2006) (Back)

19. Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd (2001) Computer & peripherals material project, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd, p. 47. (viewed 10 May 2006) (Back)

20. Department of Environment and Heritage (2005) Electrical and electronic product stewardship strategy, DEH, p. 19. http://www.deh.gov.au/settlements/waste/electricals/index.html (viewed 12 May 2006); RMIT & Product Ecology (2004) Electrical and electronic products infrastructure facilitation, RMIT, Appendix B. http://www.deh.gov.au/industry/waste/electricals/infrastructure (viewed 9 May 2006) This report summarises Australian legislation and policy relevant to electronic waste. (Back)

21. Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd (2001) Computer & peripherals material project, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd, p. 48. (viewed 10 May 2006) (Back)

22. Department of Environment and Heritage (2005) Electrical and electronic product stewardship strategy, DEH. http://www.deh.gov.au/settlements/waste/electricals/index.html (viewed 12 May 2006) (Back)

23. Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd (2001) Computer & peripherals material project, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd, p. 37. (viewed 10 May 2006) (Back)

24. Environment Victoria (2005) Environmental report card on computers 2005: computer waste in Australia and the case for producer responsibility, Environment Victoria, p. 17. http://www.envict.org.au/file/EWaste_blue_report_card.pdf (viewed 9 July 2006) (Back)

25. Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd (2001) Computer & peripherals material project, Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Pty Ltd, pp. 49-51. http://www.deh.gov.au/settlements/publications/waste/electricals/

computer-report/index.html (viewed 10 May 2006) (Back)