Waste not, re-use now

NEWF launches Regional Resource Recovery projects

In a move to stem the tide of waste, the North East Waste Forum (NEWF) has launched three new regional projects.

Compact fluorescent lamps, fluorescent tubes and electronic waste can now be recycled across the NEWF region. NEWF councils are also tackling littering with a message to all residents and visitors that bluntly says, 'Don't be a tosser'.

“NEWF member councils are proud to roll out these projects across the region to aid the sustainability of our society,” NEWF co-ordinator Gordon Fraser-Quick said.

Compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes

It has been estimated up to 70 million mercury-containing lamps are disposed of in Australia each year, dumping more than 10,000 tonnes of mercury contaminated waste into Australian landfills.

Government programs have resulted in a massive increase in the use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). In the Tweed Shire alone over 200,000 CFLs were given away to residents between November 2005 and July 2007.

Responding to this surge in CFLs most NEWF councils now accept CFLs, fluorescent tubes, mercury vapour lamps, high intensity discharge lamps and sodium lamps for recycling and reprocessing.

“CFLs are energy efficient, which is great for tackling climate change, but they present special problems when it comes to disposal at the end of their operational life,” Mr Fraser-Quick said. “They also contain valuable materials such as mercury, phosphor, aluminium and glass which simply should not be thrown away.”

Mercury is highly toxic to the human nervous system. While CFLs are totally safe to handle and use, the mercury released from broken lamps can be an extremely dangerous neurotoxin. Standard fluorescent lights contain between three and 60mg of mercury. One gram of mercury is enough to contaminate a two-acre pond. Tests carried out in the air over US landfills, where mercury containing lamps are disposed, found air samples contain up to 50 times higher mercury levels than surrounding areas.

Anne Prince, former CEO of the Australian Council of Recyclers, said, “We need to be smart enough to avoid creating a mercury pollution problem in order to fix a carbon pollution problem.”

Don't let your E-waste be waste

Launching the 'Don't let your E-waste be waste' project, NEWF councils now provide ongoing services for recycling of electronic waste.

“This is an ongoing service to residents of our region which aims to ensure that valuable materials and potentially toxic substances are not buried or wasted in landfill,” Mr Fraser-Quick said.

The range of E-waste that can now be recycled is enormous and includes: desktop computers, laptops, monitors, hard drives, keyboards, computer mice, power supplies, network and memory cards, floppy disc and CD drives, printers, scanners, mobile phones, photocopiers, fax machines, answering machines, telephones, televisions, videos, DVD players, hi-fi equipment, stereos, speakers, digital cameras, video games, joysticks, electronic games and toys, and computer game consoles.

In a first for rural Australia, the NEWF conducted a pilot regional E-waste project in 2007 and collected more than 4,500 items weighing 53 tonnes across the region in just two days.

“In our 2007 pilot project we also surveyed people delivering materials and found that the material delivered is just the tip of a very large iceberg of E-waste,” Mr Fraser-Quick said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that Australians are some of the highest users of new technology in the world, each year buying over 2.4 million computers and more than one million televisions.

The first loads of E-waste from the new ongoing service have already been sent to Sims E-Recycling in Brisbane for reprocessing.

Fees and charges may apply for some items or commercial quantities of E-waste.

Don't be a tosser

“Littering is dangerous, illegal, offensive, unhygienic and wasteful, so NEWF councils really are keen to discourage tossers,” Mr Fraser-Quick said.

Research by the NSW Government suggests a gap between people's attitudes to littering and their behaviour, finding that people generally view littering as bad but they continue to litter in some circumstances.

NEWF and the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water have now joined in a regional partnership - the 'Don't be a tosser' campaign.

Permanent signage and banners across the NEWF region will be a constant reminder for people to not be a tosser.

Need more information?

North Coast councils provide permanent facilities for the drop-off of a wide range of recyclable materials. For specific information about other resource recovery and recycling services available, contact your local council or visit your local council website.

For more information about NEWF visit www.northeastwasteforum.org.au .

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