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Recycling scheme excludes digital cameras – for now

July 13, 2011: Australia will soon have a fair and efficient national recycling scheme for end-of-life televisions, computers and consumer printers with the passage of the Product Stewardship Bill in late June.

Digital cameras and batteries are not included in the first stage of the Product Stewardship’s implementation, but inkjet printers are: Under the legislation, the definition of ‘computers’ includes peripherals such as printers – and webcams, for that matter – but not digital cameras.
Digital camera recycling could be some years off unless the digital imaging industry takes up the issue on a voluntary basis, independent of the new legislation. Mobile phones are also not included, but a mobile telecommunications industry initiative, Mobile Muster, has had considerable success in diverting phones from landfill, with some 3500 outlets collecting old phones.

Paragraph below added to story, July 18:
However, there is a privately-run camera recycling scheme in existence in Australia, initiated by Tim Gledhill, principal of camera repair business Nittram Photographic Services. Camera Recycle Australia has been in operation for over 12 months and has around 70 participating camera outlets acting as collection points around Australia.

‘The Product Stewardship Bill 2011 paves the way for a national recycling scheme, to be established by the TV and computer industries later this year, that will meet the growing need in the community for a safe and environmentally sound solution to eWaste,’ said Janet Leslie, Quality, Safety & Environment manager, Canon Oceania.

She explained that the Product Stewardship initiative will be implemented in stages, and will eventually encompass other product categories such as cameras at some time in the indeterminate future. No schedule as such exists.Toxic alkaline and lithium ion batteries are another category of product yet to be included in the scheme.

‘The government’s initial concern is computer monitors going to landfill,’ Ms Leslie explained.

Canon Australia, through the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), has been working with industry and the Australian Government in developing the legislation, which will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, increase recycling rates, recover valuable resources and prevent hazardous substances entering the environment..

‘What’s particularly pleasing is that we will see a co-ordinated national scheme established and the legislation will make it compulsory for all manufacturers and importers to do the right thing and pay their fair share – which certainly isn’t the case today,” said Ms Leslie.

This reluctance by some companies to be involved in recycling unless forced to do so through legislation is signalled by their non-participation in ‘Byteback’, a computer, peripherals and printer pilot scheme for the broader national Product Stewardship initiative, which has been running in Victoria since 2005.

As not all consumer IT and printer companies have come on board, the Byteback scheme has had to be 50 percent funded by the Victorian Government.. However Canon, Epson and HP, the three printer manufacturers most closely aligned with digital imaging, are all founding members of Byteback.

Canon, HP and Epson are also participants in Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, a national program for recycling laser and inkjet cartridges.

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and Product Stewardship Association (PSA) will be setting up collection points all over Australia for people to take their old TVs, computers and printers for recycling. If the Byteback scheme is the model, these are likely to be local council waste transfer stations, charity outlets and probably some retailers. Officeworks stores are collection points for Byteback.

Ms Leslie said that recycling scheme would be in action sometime later this year, or possibly early in 2012.

Panasonic is another leading digital imaging company which has taken a lead in the new e-waste recycling initiatives, by providing the expertise of their leading recycling engineers.

Steve Rust, managing director, Panasonic Australia, said that Panasonic would provide expert engineers from Japan ‘to help Australia quickly become a leader in e-recycling.’

‘This is a landmark moment for the consumer electronics industry and we want to make sure that the program is executed as smoothly as possible,’ said Mr Rust. ‘E-waste has emerged as one of the most significant environmental issues of modern times with more than 1.5 million televisions ending up in landfill each year.’

(Byteback photo above right courtesy Canon Australia.)

COMMENT: With around 2 million digital cameras being sold year on year in Australia, there must be many millions of obsolete models sitting in drawers awaiting a comprehensive recycling solution – which could be years away if the industry awaits legislative coercion. The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association has implemented a voluntary scheme for mobile phone recycling, primarily via retail outlets. The leading printer companies are voluntarily involved in Cartridges for Planet Ark (which also reduces the activities of cartridge refillers).

Nittram Photographics’ Tim Gledhill has taken up the challenge with some support from independent specialist retailers – but nothing from industry bodies PMA and PICA: nothing on their websites; no encouragement for their members to offer support; and certainly nothing from the industry coffers.

If only the Photo Imaging Council of Australia – whose members number all our leading camera distributors – had the energy and vision to support this initiative. It would give us something positive to tell consumers, and couldn’t hurt foot traffic into stores – clearly in the doldrums of late. Come on PICA – enough with the politics: let’s see some of that fat balance in the PICA bank account spent on something which will benefit the entire industry. Camera Recycle Australia has shown it can be done – how much better could it be with a little industry support!

One Comment

  1. Jade Stott Jade Stott May 30, 2012

    “Digital camera recycling could be some years off unless the digital imaging industry takes up the issue on a voluntary basis, independent of the new legislation.”

    Since July 2009, Camera Recycle Project has been collecting unused and unwanted cameras in Western Australia and loaning them out free-of-charge to young West Australians who cant afford access to such equipment. We are addressing the digital divide, and voluntarily reducing e-waste. You can check pictures and videos out at and of course, if you have any cameras, we’re always collecting. Jade.

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