As of this writing, Australia does not have any formalized, government-mandated rules for the management of e-waste. That doesn't mean that there isn't a program in place to help manage end-of-life electronic equipment. In fact, there is a program that just might serve as a template for the entire nation.

The Byteback program is a fusion of government and industry, aimed toward managing e-waste. The program—serving Australia's southeastern state of Victoria—involves partners Sustainability Victoria (a government environmental group) in conjunction with the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and founding partners Apple, Canon, Dell, Epson, Fujitsu, Fuji-Xerox, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and Lexmark.

With the Byteback program, consumers can bring up to 10 computers to be recycled at no charge to them. Once the devices are accepted by Byteback, printed circuit boards are sent to Canada; nickel and lithium batteries are sent to France; cathode ray tubes are sent to the Netherlands; and LCD screens are sent to the U.S. for processing.

Although this seems to be more transporting of e-waste (and it is), if the Australian government decides to adopt a similar program throughout the entire country, it will have the economy of scale necessary to process materials in-country.

The Byteback program is only a trial. It started in 2005 and will run until the end of 2008. It is expected that what the Victorians learn from the program can be used to prepare the entire country to properly dispose of computer equipment.

NOTE In its initial phase, Byteback prevented 300 tons of electronic and electrical waste from entering Australian landfills.

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