Author: Carol Warwick
The South Australian State Government has announced that a metal smelter in Port Pirie will be upgraded to become an advanced multi-metals recovery facility, capable of processing large quantities of electronic waste.
The $563 million expansion of the facility, owned by global metals giant Nyrstar, means the plant will be the largest e-waste recycling facility in Australia. The plant will soon accept and process a wide range of electronic products, such as computer circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, mobile phones, photovoltaic cells from roof solar panels, and batteries, to extract valuable metals, which can be reused to make consumer goods.
From 2018 Nyrstar expects 3,000 tonnes of waste to be processed every year, increasing to 20,000 tonnes, with a metal content recovery rate of 98%, as the facility develops.
Nyrstar’s Port Pirie smelter has come under fire in the past, with residents reporting increased blood lead levels. Nyrstar says the new funding will enable them to invest in proven state-of-the-art technology which will reduce airborne metal, dust, and sulphur dioxide emissions. Nyrstar and the South Australian Government have also agreed to further improve community health by establishing a new Targeted Lead Abatement Program.
As well as reducing landfill, the waste and resource recovery industry employs almost 5,000 South Australians with an annual turnover of over $1 billion each year.
One of the greatest challenges for a ‘device-dominated’ world is their end of life cycle disposal. Australians produce an estimated 25kg of e-waste every year, some of which is transported overseas for processing or ends up in landfill. While most people agree e-waste recycling is important, almost one in two don’t know how or where to recycle their old electronics.
Recycling of e-waste has seen a massive growth since the 2012 launch of the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, the first co-regulated program to operate under the 2011 Product Stewardship Legislation. Under this scheme manufacturers and importers of TVs take responsibility for recycling electronic waste.
Electronics recycler TechCollect has recycled over 80,000 tonnes of e-waste since it was established in 2012; Planet Ark’s ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program has diverted over 30 million cartridges from landfill since 2003; and MobileMuster has recycled more than 71 tonnes of phones, batteries, and accessories since 2008.
Carol worked at Planet Ark in the PR and Media Team in 2017.