ICTs and Environmental Sustainability in Australia
With the Australian government wavering on its response to climate change, a national household energy reduction scheme in tatters, and illegal shipments of electronic waste (e waste) still said to be en route to China,1 the July 2010 launch of a National Waste Policy Implementation Plan could not have come soon enough.
The pressure on Australians to upgrade domestic information and communications technologies (ICTs) is set to spike. With the 2012 change over to digital broadcasting, new wide-screen high-definition televisions are in demand. So much so that current trends suggest that the number of televisions are “fast outnumbering people in the average Australian household.”2
An anticipated 40 million analogue radio receivers in Australia are also due to be discarded by 2012. This, together with LCD prices plummeting and 3D screens set to impact on the market, means that the volume of e-waste that will pour out of businesses and homes will be unprecedented. Kerbside e waste, recognised by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as one of the fastest growing types of waste3 in the country, will undoubtedly increase.
In an environment that has seen a government renege on its major environmental promises, it may well require a stronger commitment from industry, in cooperation with civil society, to ensure sufficient incentives and measures are in place to increase the uptake of e waste management initiatives and the opportunities they afford. In fact, the past decade has seen the private sector – and many in the civil society sector – do just that.
Will Australia seek to influence ICT manufacturers to reduce e waste to zero sums, or will it further the need to advocate for a programme of toxic waste management? The increasing concerns around the radioactive waste site mooted for Muckaty cattle station in the Northern Territory suggests Australia has yet to find the leadership and commitment towards the establishment of a uniform and consistent approach to outright minimisation of environmental harm across all sectors.
Still, the National Waste Policy is a much sought-for step in very much the right direction.