The Commonwealth Government has recently been made aware of difficulties faced by some e-waste recycling businesses including disability service providers in South Australia and New South Wales.
The scheme was designed by the previous federal Labor government, and states and territories.
Having become aware of the issues facing these businesses, including Aspitech in South Australia, I recently ordered an inquiry into practices in the sector and the operation of the scheme.
We are shocked by what we have found. The scheme is fundamentally flawed. It relies on all States continuing to support recycling and disability groups. This is not happening. They have failed to deliver their end of the bargain.
South Australia is exploiting a scheme created by the former federal Labor government to dump e-waste and cause considerable damage to businesses that employ disabled workers.
South Australia is clearly misusing the system. Dumping these huge costs onto disability services is one of the most irresponsible and immoral actions I’ve seen by a state government. And now they’re trying to blame others.
The current federal government was not involved in developing this scheme but we are determined to fix it. We didn’t create the problem but we are doing what we can to resolve the problems created by others.
This is a scandal. It is a gross breach of faith by the South Australian government. They are taking advantage of and hiding behind an industry scheme, while failing to pay for their share of the cost of recycling.
At the federal level, Labor and the Greens left us with a complex scheme which is hurting disability service providers and has no safeguards to ensure that states take responsibility for their share of e-waste recycling.
I will be seeking to meet with states and industry in the next fortnight to discuss the matter. South Australia must come to the table.
I am committed to getting agreement from state and territory environment ministers and other stakeholders to review the operation of the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme and report by mid 2015.
My Department will issue a review paper in the coming weeks to seek input from industry, service providers and governments about operational aspects of the scheme.
These actions will ensure that all issues are identified and can be addressed including concerns by raised by social enterprises.
In South Australia, the Commonwealth Department of Social Services has been a long term supporter of Australian Disability Service Enterprise Aspitech and its parent company, providing ongoing funding for 75 employees and $380,000 to help strengthen the Aspitech e-waste recycling business.
The Commonwealth calls on all states and territories, in particular the South Australian Government, to do the right thing for the environment and provide the necessary funding to deal with e-waste – as is their responsibility under the constitution.
I will also consider future CRT waste export permit decisions taking into account any additional information Australian business is able to provide regarding their ability to refine CRT glass in partnership with other recyclers here in Australia.
I anticipate that by working with state, territory and local governments, industry and e-waste service providers to directly address their issues and concerns, we can increase e-waste recycling that not only provides the best environmental outcomes, but also ensures stability for e-waste service providers.
States, territories and local governments are currently responsible for 65 per cent of the e-waste generated in Australia and retain constitutional responsibility for all waste management.
The remaining 35 per cent of e-waste is processed at the expense of industry under a product stewardship scheme. This percentage is increasing over time.
Disability service providers, along with other enterprises, are contracted by industry to recycle e-waste. These are contracts between industry and private enterprise which do not involve the Commonwealth.
Consumers are able to take e-waste to disposal sites run by these organisations around the country.
These sites are often receiving more than the 35 per cent share that industry is taking responsibility for. This results in disability and industry groups being burdened with e-waste that is the responsibility of the states and territories.