From trash to trea­sure:

Aus­tralia in a take-make-re­make world

AQ: Australian Quarterly - - A KING’S RANSOM - AR­TI­CLE BY: DR SA­MAN­THA SHARPE & PRO­FES­SOR DAMIEN GIURCO

In 2014-15 Aus­tralia pro­duced 64 mil­lion tonnes of waste, the equiv­a­lent of 2.7 tonnes for every per­son.1 The good news is that 60% of this waste is re­cy­cled, how­ever waste gen­er­a­tion per per­son has in­creased by 1% per an­num since 2007-08, and this trend is pro­jected to con­tinue. E-waste, in­clud­ing smart phones, tablets, lap­tops and com­put­ers gen­er­ated 587,000 tonnes of waste in 2014. Of these dis­carded ma­te­ri­als about 10% is ex­ported for re-use, 65% is col­lected for ma­te­ri­als re­cov­ery, and 25% goes to land­fill 2

Not only do many of these prod­ucts con­tain haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als that should not be go­ing into land­fill, they also con­tain valu­able, fi­nite ma­te­ri­als such as gold, cop­per, and plat­inum. Ten kilo­grams of elec­tronic waste can yield 2 grams of gold, equiv­a­lent to the gold in a wed­ding ring. This may not seem much, un­til you com­pare it against the 10,000 tonnes of ore that would need to be pro­cessed to ex­tract the same amount of gold from a mine site.

3

The term ‘cir­cu­lar econ­omy’ (CE) has

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