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More people should use secondhand electronics, experts say at waste expo

A panel of experts talked about the need for more people to reuse electronics, at the Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo.

The expo, on the 29th and 30th of August, covered topics such as the future of recycling in Australia and the role of plastics in the circular economy.

At a forum about used electronics, Beyond Recycling: How Reuse and Repair Contribute to Circular Action, Australian and New Zealand Recycling Platform Limited (ANZRP) CEO, Warren Overton, said a lot of people kept old equipment, although they didn’t use it anymore.

People would remember how much they paid for it and therefore couldn’t part with it, he said.

READ: Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant opens

“We sit on it for so long it becomes unusable,” said Overton.

People were also often reluctant to pass on secondhand equipment as they were worried about their data remaining on the device, he said.

“You can go online and download software tools [to help]. A lot of people don’t know that or don’t have the skills. There’s a lot of education required.

“Twenty per cent of households admit to hoarding e-waste of 5-10kg,” said Overton. This is based on research undertaken by ANZRP.

“Let it have a second life early,” he said.

Bower Reuse and Repair Centre Co-op general manager Guido Verbist said plenty of people offered their used goods to the centre, but there wasn’t enough uptake on buying secondhand goods.

There wasn’t enough encouragement from government bodies for people to reuse electronics, he said.

“It’s limiting the capacity. There’s huge opportunity to develop that and grow the capacity,” said Verbist.

“People should start buying secondhand and think secondhand rather than new, but that’s not happening,” he said.

Old, unwanted and obsolete electronics have been under scrutiny in Australia in recent years, and the primary focus has been on end-of-life collection and recycling programs for televisions, computers and mobile phones.

These programs are an important start to better managing electronics sustainability, but they’re also close to the bottom of the waste and resource-use hierarchy, according to the Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo.

John Gertsakis, from Ewaste Watch Institute, said if planned obsolescence didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be a waste industry.

“There’s a variety of different types of planned obsolescence – whether it’s about manufacturers not keeping the parts for an adequate period of time to allow cost effective repair, whether it’s about system-wide obsolescence where programs and updates of systems exceed the hardware, whether it’s about advertising desirability obsolescence, which makes consumers feel that they need to update,” said Gertsakis.

“It certainly exists,” he said.

The forum was one of a dozen talks that took place at the expo, which aimed to challenge thinking about waste.

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