Where are we with e-waste recycling?
Author: Liam Taylor
We Australians love our electronics. However, this also means the volume of electronic waste is growing three times faster than any other waste stream in Australia. E-waste recycling solutions will represent a major part of the movement towards a circular economy in Australia. So where are we currently?
E-waste includes everything from TVs, computers and mobile phones to batteries, printer cartridges and kitchen appliances. For some electronics we’re not doing too badly. Around 60,000 tonnes of TVs and computers were recycled in 2016-17 through organisations like TechCollect, representing a recycling rate of over 50%. Not bad considering we were achieving just 10% about a decade ago. Mobile phones are also experiencing positive recycling outcomes, with MobileMuster reporting a recycling rate of 68.5% last year. However, when it comes to handheld household batteries, which does not have a product stewardship program, we’re hovering at around 5% or less. Not to mention the booming consumer demand for lithium-ion batteries used in energy storage and electric cars, and resulting waste.
There is a growing need to for product stewardship schemes that ensure e-waste is effectively recycled, which in turn will help consumers do the right thing with their electronics.
Reduce before recycle!
Before replacing dated electronic products, take a moment to first consider whether you really need the updated version or if you could live without it. If you personally no longer want or need the item, find out if it could be re-used by friends and family or refurbished by the manufacturer and made available to lower-income communities. Local charity groups also often accept older electronic products.
The tendency to continually update our electronics is the primary reason the volume of e-waste we produce in Australia is climbing so rapidly and there is little doubt we need a more sustainable model of consuming electronics.
Why recycle e-waste?
The real question is why wouldn’t you? 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 where toxic materials can leak into groundwater, contaminate the soil, and even enter the food chain.
We are more than capable of recycling the vast majority of these materials. Almost 99% of computer and mobile phone components can be recovered and recycled.
What happens to e-waste?
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
These are just some of the uses for recycled e-waste materials. More innovative solutions such as using materials from recycled printer cartridges as a component in road surfacing are already on the market.
- Reuse by passing it on via digital platforms
- Repair via community reuse centres
- Recycle mobile phones through MobileMuster, TVs and computers through TechCollect and printer cartridges through Cartridges 4 Planet Ark.
- Sign up your workplace for a free mobile phone or printer cartridge collection box through MobileMuster and Cartridges4PlanetArk.
- Search RecyclingNearYou for more information on e-waste recycling generally and how to ensure particular electronic products get recycled.
- Support manufacturers who are taking responsibility via product stewardship schemes.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.
- Five things you shouldn't put in the recycling bin - ever! »
- 8 ways to spring clean sustainably »
- Choose to reuse and get on the Garage Sale Trail »
- What can we do to reduce our e-waste? »
- Is your organisation ready for the VIC e-waste ban? »
- Student film making competition to help recycle mobiles »
- Sustainable printing? Yes, it is possible! »
- Cartridges 4 Planet Ark nails product stewardship at a time when most are finding their feet »
- Who's in the top ten returners for Cartridges 4 Planet Ark? »
- Recycle your schools' printer cartridges in May to help protect our beaches »
- Recycling is not a con. Here's why »
- Research reveals Australia's most trusted recycling program »
- Planet Ark's National Recycling Week 2018 recap »
- Recycle a phone and help clean the ocean »
- Rethink - Sustainable clutter free living »
- Planet Ark announces media partnership with Australian Circular Fashion Conference »
- Important green dates for the 2019 school calendar »
- We're celebrating 40 million cartridges saved from landfill »
- The new regifting - giving recycled products »
- 5 things you can create from your holiday waste »
- Keep your eco footprint small these holidays with Planet Ark's holiday hacks »
- Data management tips for recycling peace of mind »
- Reboot your perspective on recycling this National Recycling Week »
- Close the Loop winners at 2018 Hume Business Awards »
- New research sheds light on Australian attitudes towards environmental sustainability »
- Lake Macquarie Council paving the way for recycled roads »
- Everyday Enviro with Elise - Preloved clothing as your first fashion option »
- NSW gets its own revolutionary road »
- Everyday Enviro with Elise - Ditching the glossy mags »
- Turning the tide on trash with the ABC's War On Waste »
- Reflections on a Plastic Free July »
- Everyday Enviro with Elise - New life for old things »
- A sustainable future for fashion »
- Budding Australian solutions for plastic waste »
- Did your council or workplace make the top ten? »
- Cartridges 4 Planet Ark celebrates 15 years of recycling with Layne Beachley »
- How Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is part of the solution to plastic pollution »
- Find out how Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is part of the solution to plastic pollution »
- The 'queen of green steel' launches landmark e-waste microfactory »
- Compatible printer cartridges are not what you think they are »
- How online sharing groups are building communities »
- 8 ways to green your 2018 »
- Wynyard Station's old Wooden Escalators Repurposed Into a Public Artwork »
- Fight waste and get a bargain at the Big Aussie Swap »
- 5 ways to start your environmental sustainability journey today »
- Epson elevates commitment to cartridge recycling »
- Going plastic free: what does it take? »
- Did Your Council or Workplace Make the Top Ten? »
- Thanks Australia! 13,500 Printer Cartridges Recycled Every Working Day »
- An Impressive 10 Million and Counting »
- 14 Items You Can Recycle - But Probably Aren't (Part Two) »
- Printer Cartridges are Driving Innovation »
- 14 Items You Can Recycle - But Probably Aren't (Part One) »
- Upcoming E-Waste Collection Events »
- Flings Save Tonnes of Paper »
- Get Crafty this Christmas »
- How to Reduce Spending and Your Eco-Footprint This Christmas »
- Soft Plastic - Scrunch and Recycle »
- Cleaning Up Confusion for National Recycling Week »
- Planet Ark Launches 100% Recycled Office Paper »
- Zero Waste Audit Results for 'Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' Program Partner »
- Planet Ark Launches 100% Recycled Office Paper »
- Win a YEAR'S SUPPLY of Naturale Toilet Tissue »
- Giving Coffee Pods Another Life »
- Post Back Your Post Packs »
- Donating Your Old Smartphone Could Change Someone's Life »
- Provide Feedback and Win One of Five Battery Chargers »
- The Rise of the Coffee Pod Machine »
- Grow a Green Thumb »
- How to Recycle Whitegoods »
- Recycle Right and Have a Cuppa »
- You made June our Biggest Month Ever! »
- Toowoomba is Buzzing About Free Rechargeable Battery Recycling »
- Waste and Resource Recovery Facilities Workshops »
- A Quick Recycling Guide To 3 Tricky Items »
- Working It Out At Officeworks »
- Battery Stewardship Solutions for Australia »
- Selfie Challenge Winners »
- Printage Cartrij? Printer cartres? Printer Cartridges? »
- Learn From The New Wave In Innovation »
- Who Made the Top Ten Cartridge Recyclers »
- Cash For Containers In NSW - It Pays To Recycle »
- Reimagining Rubbish as a Resource »
- Selfie Challenge - #WhatsNotToLove »
- Fashionable Questions - Who Made Your Clothes and Where Do They End Up? »
- Four Eyes For Recycling »
- Give Dumpers A Lesson »
- A Tablet for Your Thoughts »
- Have A Light Bulb Moment With Broken Bulbs »
- Power Tool Battery recycling creates buzz in Brisbane »
- Get Your 2016 Environment Action Planner »
- Look Who's Recycled 30 Million Cartridges »
- 'Tis the Season to De-Clutter »
- Batteries Included »
- Drink Coffee? Take our Coffee Recycling Survey »
- Electrify Recycling »
- Recycle Right »
- Recycle your old mobiles & help the Salvos »
- Have an Appy Christmas »
- Re-Wrap It Up »
- Celebrate Recycling at Work »
- 'Appy' Christmas gift from Planet Ark »
- Save the date! 'Waste Not, Want Not' Day is coming »
- $50,000 Rebate Open for NSW Businesses to Increase Recycling »
- What's In a Label? »
- Is it Gold For Australia? »
- Make Recycling at Work, Work »
- Let the Flings Begin »
- Recycling Role Models »
- Inspiring Performers »
- Answers to the Big Recycling Questions »
- Test Your Recycling Knowledge! »
- Getting Your Recycling Sorted »
- Advanced Waste and Resource Recovery Facilities Training Workshop »
- Help Save Safe Toilet Paper! »
- Planet Ark's new packaging tool a finalist in Banksia Sustainability Awards »
- New Label Makes Recycling Easy »
- Garage Sale Trailing Right Around Australia »
- An Office Fling Is Good For Circulation »
- Awake to the Fun of Recycling »
- Planet Ark Project - Answering Kid's Questions »
- Declutter Your Office E-waste for FREE »
- Power Tool Battery Recycling Pilot Launches in Brisbane »
- Reduce Your Pet's Paw Print »
- Bagging Waste »
- Wise Words From An Eleven-Year-Old »
- E-Waste Busters »
- Identifying Asbestos »
- One House, Four Hours, Four Tonnes of Recycling »
- The art of upcycling »
- Happy Eco-Easter! »
- Creative Composting »
- Clean Clothes for Sensitive Souls »
- PREP For Better Recycling »
- Planet Ark Ambassadors Honoured »
- Turning Trash Into Treasure »
- Sourcing the right wood - Druce Davey »
- Recycling wooden pallets creates jobs »