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How to responsibly recycle eWaste

We rely on tech – but what happens when it stops working?

According to the Global eWaste Monitor, a record 53.6 million tonnes of eWaste was generated worldwide in 2019, up a whopping 21% in just five years. To put that into perspective, it means that the amount of eWaste we created in one year alone weighed more than all the adults in Europe combined. Hits hard, doesn’t it?

With World Earth Day landing on April 22nd, there’s no better time to start thinking about how you can recycle the old gadgets and gizmos lying around your house in a way that will make Mother Earth proud.  

What is eWaste?

The term is a little ambiguous in definition. It’s applied loosely to electronic equipment that has reached the end of its useful life – so basically, anything with a battery or power supply. It’s commonly associated with computer and mobile technology, though it could also apply to anything from common household appliances to toys.

As experts in all things internet, we’ll be focusing on that first group – covering computers, mobiles, TVs, printers, and batteries.

Why is it a problem?

eWaste contains materials that are potentially harmful to the environment and human health if they are not disposed of correctly, like Mercury, lead, and beryllium. Proper recycling keeps these toxic materials out of our air, soil, and water.

It’s also important to recycle eWaste because, well, it’s very recyclable. Many phones, computers, and tablets contain precious resources, including gold, steel, and platinum, which can be recovered and remade into new products. In fact, when recycled properly, up to 95% of eWaste components can be reused. How good is that?

What can we do?

Thankfully, lots! The best place to start is by choosing good, long-lasting products that you can repair. 

Ask ‘do I actually need this?’: Novelty comes at a price. Be mindful of whether a purchase is a necessity or if it’s something you could ultimately do without. Another idea is to buy something secondhand rather than new – you’ll likely save money, too. 

Think before you buy: Unfortunately, the nature of some electronic devices is that they will only last a few years before failing. When you’re purchasing a new piece of tech, make sure to do your research:

  • What is the expected lifecycle?
  • Can it be easily repaired?
  • Are its components non-toxic?

Repair before you replace: First, check if your product is under warranty as it could mean free-of-charge repairs if the damage wasn’t a result of an accident. The next best course of action would be to find a trained technician in your area who can provide a repair warranty.

If you’re confident in your DIY abilities, iFixit has a number of easy-to-follow repair guides and videos. Safety is important here, so tread carefully if you are new to the world of tech repair.

Quick Guides

How to Recycle: Mobile phones

If your mobile is still working, then consider extending its life by either selling it online or passing it on to friends and family. If it no longer works and is no longer wanted, then it is time to recycle it. It is estimated that we are holding onto five million old phones that are broken and no longer working.   

MobileMuster is the easiest way to recycle your old device, plus their batteries, chargers, and accessories. There are over 3,500 drop-off points around Australia, including all major mobile phone retailers. You can find your nearest MobileMuster drop point here.

Alternatively, visit their website and request a mailing satchel – or pick one up at your local AusPost – to send back your old mobiles and accessories, free of charge.

How to Recycle: Computers & Televisions

Under the government’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, companies that make and/or import more than a threshold amount of televisions and computers into Australia are required to pay for the end-of-life recycling of these products.

TechCollectDrop Zone, eCycle Solutions, and EPSA are four organisations that recycle TVs and computers for free under the scheme. Visit their websites to find your nearest drop-off location.

How to Recycle: Printer cartridges

Drop your used laser or inkjet cartridges and toner bottles at all Officeworks stores and participating Australia Post, Cartridge World, Harvey Norman, The Good Guys, JB Hi-Fi, and Office National outlets.

How to Recycle: Batteries

Aldi supermarkets offer a free battery recycling service at all their Australian stores, suitable for any brand of AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable). Selected Battery World and Officeworks stores also provide battery recycling, though we recommend calling ahead to ensure they have the service.

You can also check with your local council as many libraries and civic centres offer dedicated battery recycle bins. 

Looking to recycle something that isn’t on this list?

Planet Ark has a great tool for finding a recycler for almost anything! Just head to their website and select what you are looking to recycle, from Aerosol Cans to X-Ray Films.

This article was written with help from our friends at MobileMuster.

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