Moving your home or relocating your business inevitably means cleaning up, clearing out and discarding a lot of waste in the process. While most of us will try our best to recycle as much of this waste as possible, this process is getting harder as the quantity of electronic waste (e-waste) we produce continues to grow. Global e-waste has grown by 1.8 million tonnes each year, with just 17% of it being recycled. With the amount of e-waste growing 3 times faster than any other type of waste, it’s more important than ever to consider how you dispose of your electronic waste.
In this article we will cover everything you need to know about e-waste. We will explore what e-waste is, how it affects the environment, how it can be recycled, what can be recycled and where you can do it.
What is e-waste?
E-waste is any electronic item that is dead, damaged or dying and destined to be discarded or donated. This includes a very wide range of items, from batteries, light bulbs and laptops, to mobile phones, toasters and white goods such as fridges and washing machines.
How e-waste affects the environment
E-waste and the emissions it creates have devastating environmental impacts on land and ocean ecosystems. Electronic devices contain a range of toxic substances. This includes lead, mercury and arsenic. While these toxins aren’t harmful while they are being used in the electronics of your devices, as those devices break down and are exposed to heat they release these dangerous toxins into the air, into the soil and into the oceans.
As e-waste is dismantled and melted down, it releases dust particles and toxins which pollute the air and damage the respiratory systems of animals. This type of air pollution can travel thousands of kilometres beyond the recycling and landfill sites where they are broken down. As different animals and plants are affected differently by this interaction with air toxins, the e-waste ultimately has a tragic impact on biodiversity.
Why e-waste is harmful
E-waste is not just harmful to the environment, but also directly damaging to human health. While the impact on the global environment is already harmful to humans, the toxins released by the degradation of e-waste have direct effects on the human body, particularly the brain, heart, liver, kidney and skeletal system. The pollution and toxins released by e-waste can also lead to a rise in disease and birth defects. In order to mitigate the harmful effects of e-waste on human health and the global environment, it’s important that we each play our part in reducing the amount of e-waste through recycling.
Why recycle electronic waste
Recycling e-waste plays an important part in protecting the environment and our communities. The more e-waste that is successfully recycled, the less dangerous toxins that will be released into the air, the soil and the oceans. The reduction of toxins is the primary purpose of recycling electronic waste and will go a long way towards improving the strength of our ecosystems.
Choosing to recycle your electronic waste means diverting it away from our overgrown landfills. Landfills are a burden to surrounding communities and to the wider environment. As the enormous piles of waste decompose, they release toxic liquids that pollute waterways and methane gas which pollutes the air. Reducing the growth of landfills is an essential strategy for reducing the impact of climate change and building alternative solutions to the management of waste.
Create a circular economy
Recycling is not the destination for the management of waste, it is the pathway to the creation of a circular economy. The more we can successfully recycle hazardous waste, including e-waste, the less dangerous materials end up contaminating our environment and damaging our ecosystems. A circular economy is one in which products that have broken or become unusable can be used as the foundation to create new products. A circular economy is a sustainable solution that can achieve the reduction of landfills and toxins while also reducing the amount of emissions required to create products.
Improve community health
Each of the previous three reasons to recycle e-waste all contribute to this final goal of improving community health. While it is often easier to simply discard e-waste in rubbish bins, it is detrimental to the environment and detrimental to the health of your neighbours, your friends and your family. It can be hard to focus on the downstream effects of our actions, but a long term view of the impact we have through our daily actions is the key to changing our habits for the better. Every electronic item that you choose to recycle plays a role in improving the health outcomes of your local community.
How is e-waste recycled?
Not all e-waste can be recycled and not all parts of an electronic item can be reused. In order to salvage the valuable and usable parts from e-waste, the items are dismantled, shredded and sorted into various categories. These include glass, metal, plastics, batteries, circuit boards etc. Studies suggest that as much as 95% of Australia’s e-waste can be recycled. This means that it is always worth your time making sure that your electronic waste gets to a recycling facility.
How to recycle your e-waste?
Donate if usable
If your electronic device is still functional then the best thing you can do is to either sell it or donate it. By donating your device to someone else you can avoid putting it through the recycling process at all, guaranteeing that 100% of the item will be used and reducing any potential carbon footprint by going through a recycling facility. Many people choose to update their devices - such as computers, phones and washing machines - before they have stopped working. Ensuring that your device gets passed on to someone that needs it will provide the greatest outcomes for the environment and community health.
Take it to an e-waste drop-off point if it’s broken
If your electronic device is broken or unusable, then it is time to get it recycled. E-waste drop-off points are scattered all throughout the country and will happily take your device for you. Find a responsible recycling facility near you. It is a good idea to research the facility you intend to recycle your e-waste to ensure that they meet Australian environmental standards.
Contact your local council if there are no drop-off points
If you find yourself without a nearby e-waste drop-off point, then your next step is to contact your local council. Each council will have its own unique processes, but they will all be happy to assist you in recycling your electronic waste.
Where can common e-waste be recycled?
While most e-waste can be taken to local drop-off points, there are also organisations and programs that assist with the recycling of common electronic waste items.
Many Aldi and Batteryworld stores across the country will happily accept batteries and recycle them without any cost to you.
Light bulbs and fluorescent tubes can be taken to most transfer stations operated by local councils without any cost.
Laptops can be recycled by taking them to participating collection points designated by the National Television and Computer recycling scheme.
Mobile phones can be dropped off for recycling without any charge at sites across the country run by MobileMuster. This program allows you to recycle not just your phone, but also their batteries, chargers and other phone accessories. Remember to delete your personal data before dropping off your mobile phone.
White goods contain a large amount of high quality, recyclable materials. For this reason it is particularly important that you take your old or broken white goods, such as fridges, freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, to a designated drop off point near you. If you don’t have a drop off point near you, contact your local council.
Recycling e-waste when moving
During a relocation of your home or business, it is likely that you will have some electronic items that you no longer want or need. If your devices are still functional, it is highly recommended that you either donate or sell those items in order to prevent them entering the recycling process unnecessarily. If your devices are broken or unusable then we encourage you to take them to a designated e-waste drop-off point. If you have no nearby drop-off point then get in touch with your local council to learn what options you have for recycling your e-waste.