What Can We Do About E-Waste

Firstly, what is E-waste.

As defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics: “waste electrical and electronic equipment that is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to function (including all components, subassemblies and consumables which are part of the original equipment at the time of discarding).”

The average person might have the following items in this non-exclusive list:

TVs, DVD players (entertainment electronics)

Computers and associated electronics, telephones, mobile phones

Appliances like fridges, microwaves, washing machines

Desk and floor lamps

Power tools

Electronic fitness machines, remote control toys.

Huge amounts of e-waste are generated in the world, containing raw materials that can be recycled, such as gold, silver and/or platinum. And in 2021 more and more e-waste will be generated. E-waste in Australia is the fastest-growing component of solid waste.

A low percentage (estimated at 20%) is collected to be recycled. What happens to the 80% is not known, and probably just dumped or traded.

Unprocessed and outdated technology finds its way into developing countries. Disposal methods there can be damaging to the environment, as they contain hazardous substances like lead, beryllium and cadmium. To burn these components will be dangerous to health and environment.

China used to take large amounts of e-waste from other countries, but China’s recent decision to discontinue this has left other countries with no market for their e-waste.

Significant quantities of the world’s gold and silver are used to make electronic devices, but very low and insignificant amounts are recycled from millions of tonnes of electronic waste. Elements such as tin, cobalt, antimony, as well as glass and plastic, and the previous metals, gold, silver, platinum, are available to be recovered, but only a very small amount is recycled.

Australians are disposing of their electronic devices, mobile phones, computers, televisions etc, into landfill. There is a National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, implemented to provide access to collection and recycling services, with more than 1800 collection services. Connect to their website to find recycling drop off points for TVs and computers near you.

Many don’t recycle old computers, thinking they might lose data, or make their data available to someone else. Most know that mobile phones are recyclable and able to be reused, but only 8% do anything about it. Australians are happy to recycle cardboard, paper and even printing cartridges, yet they need to improve when it comes to recycling electronic waste. In Queensland waste management facilities are well prepared to receive electronic waste.

A survey of 1,000 people in Australia’s major cities indicated that 43% keep their old devices just in case they might need them later. Only one third took e-waste to a designated e-waste site, and a quarter threw them in the bin.

Electronic waste can also be disposed of through rubbish removal companies dealing with electronic waste removal. They are able to dispose of every conceivable bit of household, office, factory or shop rubbish, including electronic waste, and you can be confident that everything will be delivered to the correct disposal centre.

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