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Australian Appliance Firms Told to Recycle or Be Fined
Mar 22, 2004
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Manufacturers of computers, televisions and other household items in Australia will face financial penalties unless they come up with strategies for disposing of their products in an environmentally friendly way.

The country's Environment Minister Bob Debus said there were 16 "wastes of concern" he wanted industry to take responsibility for, including computers, televisions, batteries, tires, and vehicle parts.

"The days of manufacturers washing their hands of products once they leave the shop are coming to an end," he said.

Mr. Debus said industry would now have a year to consider "extended producer responsibility," where producers take back goods at the end of their life cycle.

Manufacturers will be asked to come up with strategies for reclaiming items households no longer want in order to prevent them from going into landfill.

Mr. Debus said he would set up an expert panel to consider the proposals put forward by business. Depending on the industry response, legislation could be introduced next year and might include fines for those deemed to be not moving fast enough.

The deputy chief executive of the Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association, Brian Douglas, said industry accepted it had to take responsibility for the goods it produced. But a national approach was needed and would work only if 100 percent of industry was involved.

The association was working on its own responsibility scheme, but all manufacturers, importers, and distributors needed to support it.

Otherwise, consumers would notice a difference in cost between products made by companies taking part in such a scheme and those that were not.

Mr. Douglas said the add-on cost of any scheme was not likely to be significant, but he did not want some industry members to opt out because they feared they would lose sales.

"This can only be achieved if the appropriate regulatory mechanisms are in place."

He expected other states to follow the lead of NSW.

The State Government strategy for waste disposal over the next 10 years says existing landfill sites are struggling under the 4 million tons of non-recyclable rubbish Sydney, Australia throws away each year.

A report prepared 2 years ago found the five current landfill sites would run out of space by 2006.

Televisions and computers -- including monitors, keyboards, cabling, and central processing units -- are at the top of the NSW list because of their volume, toxicity, high potential for reuse and the likelihood of dumping.

The NSW Department of Environment and Conservation estimates between 5,000 and 15,000 tone of waste computers are sent to landfill sites each year.

Old tires are also on the hit list, with about half the 51,000 tons of tires discarded each year ending up in landfill.

Rechargeable nickel cadmium batteries, such as those used in cordless phones, power tools, and video cameras, are also being targeted. About 500 tons of these batteries end up in a landfill each year.

Clean Up Australia Chairman Ian Kiernan said the cycle of waste must stop.

"Industry can no longer keep passing on the costs to councils and ratepayers for the disposal of their products into landfill or the cleaning up of our waterways, bushlands, and beaches," he said. "We can't continue to consume our resources at these rates, pollute our waterways, injure our wildlife and damage Australia's clean and green reputation." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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