How to dispose of your e-waste responsibly

Explainer

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding e-waste disposal. From the categorisation of goods to their means of disposal, the topic has people scratching their heads and illegally dumping their washing machines.

So what can be recycled? What, if anything, can be chucked in the bin? And where can you find an answer?

To demystify the issue, let’s start with the basics…

What exactly is e-waste?

E-waste refers to electronic waste. According to the NSW government office of environment and heritage that includes “any item with a battery or plug that you wish to dispose of.”

Some examples of e-waste:

  • Computers (and associated parts like monitors, printers and keyboards)
  • Televisions and DVD players
  • Radios, speakers and CD players
  • Mobile phones
  • Power tools
  • Kitchen appliances and white goods

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports Australia as one of the highest users of technology on the planet, making e-waste one of the fastest growing types of waste in the country.

Why not just dump them in landfill? 

As much as possible we want to divert our e-waste from landfill.

There are a number of reasons for this

  • Electrical waste contains hazardous substances including lead and mercury that can be hazardous to humans and the environment. By dumping them in landfill we risk these chemicals leaking into the environment where they can do irrevocable damage.
  • They contain recyclable materials. Simply dumping and forgetting about our phones and fridges means we lose a lot of metals and other elements that could otherwise be reused and recycled.

According to the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, if 75 per cent of the 1.5 million televisions discarded annually were recycled there would be savings of 23,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents, 520 mega litres of water, 400,000 gigajoules of energy and 160,000 cubic metres of landfill space!

So what should you do with your e-waste? 

Re-use

We would always recommend re-using where possible.

For e-waste this means deciding if that mower or washing machine still works, and finding a new home for it if it does. This could mean selling, donating or giving away the once-loved device to someone who needs.

You can sell or give away your items on platforms such as Gumtree, Facebook’s Marketplace or Ebay

You could also consider giving it to a charitable organisation. There are a few listed by location here on GiveNow

Also remember to ask your friends and family. You may have a young person in your life who could use a free kettle or a better microwave.


Recycle

If the electrical item no longer works then recycling is the way to go.

For televisions and computers, check out the Australian Government’s television and computer recycling scheme. It gives you access to free industry-funded collection and recycling services (including printers, computer parts and peripherals).

Go here to find additional drop-off points and services, including a comprehensive list of what’s covered under the scheme.

For other electrical goods the process is slightly different in every state and territory, so check with your local council. Start here if you’re unsure what your local council is.

Many will hold at least an annual e-waste collection, and will certainly have information on other methods of recycling your broken tech.

Did you know: the amount of gold recovered from one tonne of electronic scrap from personal computers is more than that recovered from 17 tonnes of gold ore! (Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Good luck reducing, reusing and recycling.