Mapping, Characterising and Evaluating Collection Systems and Organisations: Final Report

Ruth Lane, Wayne Stephen Gumley, Dan Eleazar Santos

Research output: Book/ReportOther ReportOther


While forms of recycling of goods and materials have always existed, there are new imperatives in affluent countries such as Australia to consider the role of metals recycling or urban mining. This is driven by two main concerns, 1) the need to reduce environmental costs associated with sourcing metals from virgin
mining (UNEP 2013), and 2) concerns about future scarcity of specific metals used in manufacturing due to either resource depletion or supply risks linked to global trade dependencies (Graedel et al 2011, Graedel et al. 2013, UNEP 2013). In policy terms, this means a shift from a “logic of hazard” to a “logic of resource” (Kama 2014) that requires reframing what has been regarded as waste management as resource recovery.

In Australia, incentives for scaling up recycling are now coming from government policy (e.g. state-based landfill levies to deter dumping, Australia’s National Waste Policy which supports product stewardship take back schemes), from business corporate social responsibility initiatives, and from a wide range of community sector organisations seeking opportunities for employment generation and training. These developments are all taking place against a wider context of increasing circulation of used goods and materials globally, and within the Asian region in particular. Growing demand for inexpensive commodities in China and India is driving new flows of used commodities from around the world to feed emerging recycling-based industries in the Asia-Pacific region (Kaplinsky and Farooki 2010, Schandl and West 2012, Kirby and Lora-Wainwright 2015).

The research presented here forms one of a number of projects being undertaken as part of ‘Wealth from Waste’, a multi-university CSIRO Flagship Cluster research program that explores the feasibility of developing a capacity for advanced metals recycling in Australia. Within the Wealth from Waste research
program the specific role of this research is to provide an appraisal of existing collection systems, including a characterisation of the range of types of organisations involved as well as a more focused assessment of organisations and collection systems currently responsible for the bulk of the material flows. The focus is specifically on collection systems and reprocessing for scrap metal, and communications electronics from Australian cities. While bulk scrap, especially ferrous metals, is relatively low in market value, it is generated in large enough quantities to be economically significant. By contrast, electronic waste contains high value materials (e.g. gold, rare earth metals such as indium) but in small quantities (UNEP 2013). In both cases the resource is widely distributed mainly in Australia’s large cities. However, the bulky character of scrap metal compared with the smaller units that characterise used electronics mean that different logistical challenges arise requiring different collection approaches, equipment and facilities.

The overall aim of the research presented here is to broaden understanding of the range of organisations involved in collection of these materials and of the factors that affect their operations. More specific aims are as follows:
1. to identify and characterise the range of organisations involved in the collection and reprocessing
of scrap metal, and used electronics (including mobile phones, handheld batteries and computers and televisions) from Australian cities
2. to identify incentives and disincentives for involvement of different types of organisations in collection systems
3. to identify factors that most strongly influence the effectiveness of collection systems, including the role of a wide range of relevant legislative schemes and regulatory agencies
4. to identify and characterise the spatial and logistical dimensions of systems for collection and reprocessing of used electronics and scrap metal in Australia
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne VIC Australia
PublisherMonash University
Commissioning bodyMonash University
Number of pages59
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2015

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