We live in a world dominated by electronic devices. It is almost impossible to go through life these days without coming into contact with them, everything from the alarm clock that wakes you in the morning, the kettle that boils the water for your coffee, your smartphone, computer, television etc. These devices inevitably reach the end of their working lives at which point you buy a new one and just chuck the old one in the bin, right? Well no, actually.
E-Waste, as it has come to be known, has become a huge environmental problem. Of the 15.7 million computers that were disposed of in Australia in 2008, less than 10% were recycled. This means 90% or more ended up in landfill. This presents significant environmental health and sustainability issues.
When put in landfill, the toxic chemicals in tech devices can leech into the surrounding soil and water. These include Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Lithium, Mercury, and Lead. The elements within tech devices are also a finite resource meaning that if devices wind up in landfill, much of their material contents are lost.
So what should be done instead? E-waste is defined as ‘electrical and electronic equipment that is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to function (including all components, sub-assemblies and consumables which are part of the original equipment at the time of discarding)’. So essentially, any device with a power cord or battery becomes E-Waste. This includes household appliances like kettles, microwaves, and washing machines, as well as computers and smart phones etc.
There are many recycling services now available for the collection of E- Waste. These services will break down the components of devices, extracting the various elements and recycling them for further use in new devices. Some collection services are independent businesses, though many councils now offer dedicated e-waste collections in additional to regular council clean-ups. Check your local council website for E-Waste collection dates and times, or alternatively, try these collection services: