Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation series
Edited by Natalie P. Stoianoff, Larry Kreiser, Bill Butcher, Janet E. Milne and Hope Ashiabor
Chapter 8: Using environmental taxation to improve outcomes for e-waste in Australia
This chapter considers the role of environmental taxation as a regulatory response for dealing with the escalating cost of managing the disposal and recycling of end-of- life electrical and electronic products (‘e-waste’) in Australia. The e-waste problem presents a very clear example of a market failure requiring some form of government intervention. On the one hand the producers and distributors of electronic communication and entertainment products are amongst the most successful corporations in the global market place, providing consumers with an ever increasing range of exciting new gadgets, ranging from smart phones to photo-voltaic panels. Meanwhile, the quantity of e-waste has grown rapidly and less than 16% is currently recovered for re-use, recycling or safe disposal. In earlier times State and Territory governments commonly relied upon landfills to deal with most industrial, construction and household waste streams. The rapid growth in e-waste and a shift to recognising the economic value in waste streams has caused governments to re-think the traditional landfill approach. The Australian Federal Government recognised the need for a national approach, when it introduced a ‘product stewardship’ scheme for computers and televisions in 2011. The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) requires manufacturers and importers of televisions, computers and ancillary products to be responsible for collecting and recycling a prescribed proportion of those products when they are discarded by consumers at ‘end-of- life’. This chapter will first outline some quantitative aspects of the e-waste problem and then describe the regulatory measures that have been used to address this problem with particular focus upon the NTCRS. Observations from that analysis will then be used to suggest how environmental taxation strategies can be applied to overcome weaknesses in the current arrangements.
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