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E-waste – a rapidly growing problem


A new study, published by the United Nations University, quantifies the amount of e-waste generated globally in 2014. The Global E-Waste Monitor 2014 also aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of e-waste impacts and how it is being managed around the world.

According to the study, 41.8 million tonnes (Mt) of e-waste was generated globally in 2014, and it predicts this will rise to 50Mt in 2018. Only 6.5 Mt (approximately 15%) was recycled through official schemes last year.

The study highlights the complexity of electronic goods, in terms of their composition and diversity, as a reason why e-waste is so complex to manage. E-waste has been described as a ‘toxic mine’, containing high value elements along with toxic components that must be carefully treated. The material value of e-waste in 2014 was over AU$66 billion, with most of this value coming from gold, copper and plastic content within the products. E-waste also contains significant amounts of toxins, quantified in the study at 2.2Mt of lead glass, 0.3Mt of batteries and 4 thousand tonnes of CFCs.

Responsibly treated e-waste is processed in state-of-the-art facilities which recover the valuable material and safely dispose of the remainder. This includes refinery processes to regain precious metals, battery and plastic recycling, dangerous substance treatment and disposal of non-recyclable elements.

National take-back legislation and schemes allow e-waste to be collected and responsibly disposed. Australia’s national regulations for the disposal of computers and televisions are an example of this. The regulations, created under the Product Stewardship Act 2011, require importers and manufacturers to fund the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme. Through the scheme, households and small businesses can dispose of their televisions and computers at designated collection points. Australia disposes of approximately 1% of its total e-waste in this manner, compared to 12% in the USA and Canada and 40% in the European Union.

The paper summaries take-back schemes in all regions, providing interesting insight into global e-waste management. It names China, one of the biggest producers of e-waste, as a leader in e-waste disposal, having recently implemented pilot projects and legislation covering domestic e-waste.

The European Union is one of the few regions to have uniform legislation regarding the collection and processing of e-waste, with targets to collect 85% of e-waste. However the authors note that these targets are not currently being met, with the best performers, namely Sweden, Denmark and Bulgaria, collecting around 60% of their e-waste.

Want to know more? Access the full report from the United Nations University. Read a media report from ABC News.

110kg of ivory seized in Perth


Regulatory Area: Illegal wildlife trade, customs Jurisdiction: Australia (national), Western Australia

A large shipment of ivory being transferred through Perth has been intercepted by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS). The 110 kilogram shipment was discovered by ACBPS officers during an inspection of aeroplane cargo, and was seized under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EBPC Act). This ivory interception also fulfils Australia's border control obligations as a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Australia treats all elephant species as though they are listed on Appendix 1 of CITES, affording them the highest level of protection available.

The $385, 000 shipment came to Perth from Malawi, and was on-route to Malaysia. The ivory has been referred to the Department of the Environment, and investigations into the origin of the shipment will continue. No charges have been laid at this stage. The EPBC Act allows maximum penalties of up to ten years jail, and individual fines up to $170,000.

Read the full media release here.

Beyond tenure: managing forests across the landscape


Regulatory Area: Forestry Jurisdiction: Australasia

This is a summary of the 8th Joint Conference of the Institute of Foresters of Australia and the New Zealand Institute of Forestry, Creswick, Victoria, 13-15 April, 2015. Kindly provided by Professor Rod Keenan, Chair of the Conference Organising Committee.

From 13-15 April 2015, over 270 professional forest managers, related professionals and students from across Australia, New Zealand, the Asia Pacific region and beyond descended on Creswick, Victoria in balmy autumn weather. Smoke from controlled burns lingering in the evening air and calls of Australian birdlife ringing across the hills provided a fitting environment to explore new horizons for forestry in the 21st Century.

Forests and trees provide many benefits for the community: water, biodiversity conservation, scenic values, agricultural production, timber and firewood, land and soil conservation and jobs in timber production or tourism. The conference theme was built around the idea that with more active management across the landscape we can do better at meeting the many expectations that the community holds for forests and trees.

In opening the conference, Senator Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture in the Australian Government called for foresters to become more active participants in the national debate over forests and for the use of science-based knowledge to explore new approaches to forest management and new innovations in forest products and services. President of the Institute of Foresters of Australia, Rob de Fegely questioned whether Australia, with one of the highest levels of forest per capita globally but being a net importer of wood products, was pulling its weight in relation to international wood supply.

Setting the global scene, keynote speaker Professor Ross Garnaut indicated that we are going through an unprecedented period of change in the global economy and the global environment. We have the possibility of achieving universal economic development and sources of capital for investment are shifting from the developed to the developing world. However, this is coupled with prospect of unprecedented environmental change, particularly in the global climate system. Sustaining economic growth without undermining the environment on which we depend will require a fundamental shift in energy systems and investment in forest-based carbon sinks.

Indigenous health leader, Professor Kerry Arabena, presented a future of forests from an Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective. Kerry argued for forests as venues for mutual respect and relationship building. Rather than being places of conflict, forests can become ‘landscapes of reconciliation’ in which we articulate a shared vision for country, built on ideas of holism from indigenous cultures and exploring different science-based methods of engaging with forests. Head Forester of the Duchy of Cornwall, Geraint Richards, brought a message from Prince Charles about the opportunities for international collaboration to improve skills and the status of forests globally.

Presenting the Max Jacobs Oration, former Director of Conservation and Land Management in Western Australia, Dr Syd Shea, focused on the integration of timber plantations with agriculture and conservation and the potential to utilise residual wood as biochar for soil improvement and carbon storage. He argued that there was a ‘harmonic convergence’ in the growing international demand for wood fibre, new products and new forest growing technologies, expanding capital savings in sovereign wealth funds, pension and superannuation funds and the need for land rehabilitation. These can be brought together to restore forest functions at landscape and regional scales.

Other leading speakers at the conference included Dr Tint Lwin Thaung, Director General of the international Centre for People and Forests based in Bangkok, who addressed the challenges of climate change, illegal logging and trade, reforestation and effective forest governance in the 18 percent of the world’s forests in the Asia Pacific region and the need for professional foresters with skills in stakeholder engagement, business management and leadership.

Forest_prescribed_burn_PubDomFormer Head of Fire Management in the US Forest Service, Jerry Williams, gave an empassioned plea to rethink forest fire management in response to megafires. Despite more and more funds being spent on fire suppression in the western USA, larger areas are being burnt each year, more houses and even whole towns are being destroyed and experienced fire fighters are losing their lives. The solution lies in treating fire as a land management problem – anticipating future risks, reducing fuels and managing people to behave differently in fire prone parts of the landscape.

In cross-cutting panel sessions on ‘transforming thinking’, ‘resilient systems, ‘market-based approaches and ‘community-based approaches’, there was active discussion around the conference theme. Presentation sessions ranged across indigenous forest and land management, international forestry, carbon forestry, urban forestry, integrating forests and agriculture, forests products supply chains, innovation, markets and certification, forest fire management and conserving forest biodiversity across the landscape.

Wrapping up the conference final keynote speakers, Professor Andrew Campbell from Charles Darwin University spoke about the role for foresters in the transformation required to meet growing global demands for food and fibre in a changing world and inaugural winner of the Ron Hateley Award for young forester of the year, Sarah Dickson-Hoyle, looked to the future, focusing on the role of the youth network, IFSA, and the skills that will be required of the 21st Century forester – with a key being communication skills.

Other highlights were the presentation of the IFA’s highest award, the NW Jolly medal, to well-known forester Dr Hans Drielsma and Commonwealth Forestry Association awards to Dr Don Gilmour from Queensland and Dr Andrew McEwen from New Zealand. In a presentation to the dinner, market researcher and Planet Ark Board member Howard Parry-Husbands presented positive messages from his research – that people love trees and forests, love using wood, that foresters are equally as trusted as ENGOs in their views on forest management.

Participants left with a feeling that future prospects for profession are bright. Foresters provide the professional capacity to manage trees across all types of public and private ownerships. We need new ways of thinking about forest management. Foresters need to stop fighting the battles of the past and focus on the challenges of a fundamentally different and uncertain future. Designing a new future for forests and foresters will require imagination and collaboration. Our greatest enemy is public ignorance of the profession and of the requirement for active forest management. The challenge is to take the positive messages from the conference ‘beyond the room’ to our wider community.

Battle against Panama Disease continues (QLD)


Regulatory Area: Biosecurity Jurisdiction: Queensland

Biosecurity Queensland has received a second positive test for Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) on a commercial banana farm near Mareeba. This follows the disease being previously detected in a plantation in Tully, 180 kilometres away, in early March 2015. The affected farm has been quarantined, while staff continue to survey for infected plants.

Chief Biosecurity Officer, Dr Jim Thompson, said that while the development is disappointing, it is an outcome for which the department has been preparing.

"Over the past five weeks we have progressively ramped up our surveillance, tracing, sampling and testing efforts with more than 70 people now working on the response." Dr Thompson said.

The Panama disease Taskforce will destroy any infected plants that are detected, and will investigate how the infection occurred, including whether there are any links between the two properties.

Panama disease is Notifiable Disease in Queensland under the Plant Protection Act 1989. All high risk materials, including soil or tools that have been in contact with a diseased plant, require an authorised Inspector's Approval before entering Queensland.

Plants infected by Panama disease TR4 are unable to produce viable bunches of fruit, but pose no risk to human health. The disease is spread through soil and water movement, and the fungus can remain in the soil for decades. There is no cure for the disease, meaning that efforts are focused on containment and prevention. On-farm biosecurity measures, such as removing soil from machinery, vehicles and footwear, are also recommended.

Want to know more?

  • Visit the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD) website
  • Read the official media release from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
  • Download a Panama disease fact sheet from Plant Health Australia.
  • AELERT represented in new book: Environmental Enforcement Networks


    Looking for something new to read? This book, published just last month, is all about the role and value of networks such as ours, and features significant contributions from AELERT royalty.

    Environmental Enforcement Networks: Concepts, Implementation and Effectiveness, presents a general theory of how and why networking can increase the effectiveness of environmental enforcement. It emphasises that given the ‘limited assets of enforcement agencies, there is a lot to be gained by joining forces and by sharing information’ and that ‘environmental enforcement networking can … be considered as one of the many forms of “smart” enforcement’.

    In his review, Neil Gunningham from the Australian National University says that the book shows:

    ‘Just how "smart" enforcement networks have become and indeed need to be in the never-ending struggle for effectiveness of environmental protection: they operate horizontally or vertically, locally and globally, top-down and bottom-up, often through citizens engagement and always in search for greater effectiveness.’

    The book, which is the result of an international conference held in Brussels on 13-14 November 2013 by the Flemish High Council of Environmental Enforcement and the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE), also features many contributions from AELERT members.

    Grant Pink, previous AELERT Secretary, contributed Chapter One, describing the theory, practice and potential of environmental enforcement networks, and Chapter Seven which addresses the added value of environmental enforcement networks, especially in times of reducing resources and budgets.

    In Chapter 5, Grant Pink and James Lehane describe the network evaluation matrix and in Chapter Six, James Lehane, previous AELERT Executive Officer, provides a critical analysis of environmental enforcement networks.

    Long-standing AELERT member, Campbell Gemmell, contributed Chapter Two which discusses the importance of environmental networking in the framework of the better regulation agenda. Campbell, along with AELERT’s current Chair Tony Circelli, also contributed Chapter Eight which describes the mutual relationship between environmental regulation and enforcement networks. This Chapter further highlights the importance of networks in facilitating knowledge exchange.

    Edited by Michael Faure, Peter de Smedt and An Stas, this new release considers the circumstances under which networking can increase the effectiveness of environmental enforcement. Find out more and purchase your copy through BookDepository.

    EPA NSW releases new landfill guidelines


    Regulatory Area: Pollution, waste Jurisdiction: New South Wales

    The Environment Protection Authority New South Wales (EPA NSW) has released their draft Solid Waste Landfill Guidelines for public consultation. The guidelines set new and stricter parameters for landfill operators, aiming to minimise risks to the community and the environment. The guidelines, drafted by the EPA’s Waste Compliance Section, cover the design and construction of landfills, forming the basis for EPA Operating licence conditions. There are 11 minimum standards outlined, including:

    • cell design,
    • stormwater management,
    • water and gas monitoring,
    • site security, and
    • odour, dust, noise and fire control.

    Landfill guidelines in NSW were previously separated into two separate documents; Solid Waste Landfills (1996) and Draft Environmental Guidelines for Industrial Waste Landfilling (1998). The new guidelines combine guidance for both general solid waste and restricted solid waste into a single document. They also recognise modern landfill techniques and bring the standards for operation in line with current legislation and policy.

    Public submissions close on 30 June 2015.

    Want to know more?