What is e-waste?
E-waste includes everything from TVs, computers and mobile phones to batteries, printer cartridges and kitchen appliances. E-waste contains a high amount of non-renewable resources such as plastic and precious metals including gold, silver, platinum, nickel, zinc, aluminium and copper. Recycling these materials prevents new electronics being made from virgin non-renewable sources while also preventing the products winding up in landfill.
How is it recycled?
As with any product we encourage everyone to reduce, reuse and repair before recycling. E-waste collected for recycling is almost always manually disassembled and assorted into its various components. These individual materials such as cabling, circuit boards, glass, metals and plastics are then processed for use as raw materials in new products.
- Computers and accessories can often be refurbished and made available to lower-income communities. If this is not an option, individual materials such as cabling, glass, circuit boards and plastics are recovered and processed into raw materials.
- Mobile phones are disassembled into component parts, which are then transported to local and overseas recyclers for processing. The plastic can be made into shipping pallets and lithium extracted from the phones can be made into new batteries.
- Whitegoods such as fridges and washing machines have hazardous materials removed before being crushed and shredded for recycling..
- Electrical appliances such as DVD players, alarm clocks, cameras, toasters and radios could be repaired at reuse centres. Through recycling, many of the materials, including glass, copper, plastics, metals and precious metals, are recovered for further processing and eventual use in the manufacture of new products.
- Printer Cartridges – the cartridges are shredded and the plastics are made into e-wood for outdoor furniture, play equipment and pens . The toner can be used as an additive to recycled road surfaces and the ink reused as 100% recycled ink.
- Batteries - Materials such as lead, cadmium, mercury, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc are used to make batteries. These materials are all non-renewable, can be recycled an infinite number of times and have a commercial value.
E-waste can also contain toxic and hazardous materials. It is therefore important that they are handled, recycled and disposed of in a regulated and responsible manner. Product Stewardship Schemes work to minimise the health and environmental impact of a product over its entire lifecycle from design, production, distribution, sale and use to disposal, recovery, reuse and recycling. Schemes for e-waste include:
- National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme - In 2011 the Australian Government introduced a national, industry funded, recycling scheme for televisions and computers. The scheme prevents millions of old TVs and computers from being sent to landfill by providing opportunities for the community to recycle their unwanted televisions and computers free of charge.
- Mobile Muster - is the official recycling program of the mobile phone industry. It is a free recycling program funded voluntarily by handset and accessory manufacturers. It is a not-for-profit program.
- Cartridges 4 Planet Ark - This voluntary Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program is supported by participating manufacturers: Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera to collectively take responsibility for the end life of their products.
Many people are concerned about their device date being accessed when considering recycling their devices. All data should be wiped from a device before handing it over for recycling. Mobile Muster has some great data management tips for removing data from mobile phones. TechCollect also has useful information on deleting data from computers and other devices.