Safely Disposing of E-waste

The disposal of electronic and electric devices (known as e-waste) has become a big issue for waste management.

In 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide, with only about 20% being recycled.

In Victoria alone, it’s estimated a total of 109,000 tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2015.

Over the coming years, the amount of global e-waste is expected to increase to 52.2 million tonnes by 2021, representing an approximate 8% increase every year.

Not only is e-waste growing three-times faster than any other waste stream, but it also contains potentially hazardous and valuable materials, which don‘t belong in landfill.

E-waste contains a range of chemicals, heavy metals and inks that can be incredibly bad for the environment. These include heavy metals such as lead and mercury and chemicals like ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and flame retardants.

These substances can leach into the groundwater, soil and air and, since they don’t break down easily, the result can be long-term, and often irreversible, environmental damage.

Besides the potential environmental risks, e-waste also contains a range of valuable materials that can be recycled. These include:

  • Tin
  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Silver
  • Zinc
  • Gold
  • Aluminium
  • Platinum

In the interests of caring for the environment and minimising our use of primary materials, it’s in everyone’s best interests to properly dispose of e-waste.

What is e-waste?

E-waste is a broad term used for any kind of product that has a plug or battery that has come to the end of its useful life. It includes a range of electric and electronic devices, from mobile devices and laptops to refrigerators to fluorescent light tubes.

E-waste includes (but is not limited to):

  • Batteries (household and car batteries)
  • Mobile phones and devices
  • Computers and laptops
  • Light bulbs and fluorescent tubes
  • Smoke detectors
  • White goods
  • Power tools
  • TVs and monitors
  • Remote controls
  • Printers and cartridges
  • Appliances
  • Electric fans
  • Small home appliances (e.g. hairdryers, toasters)
  • Video game consoles and games
  • Electronics toys

Properly disposing of e-waste

In Victoria, e-waste was banned from landfill in Victoria in 2019. This was done to:

  • Reduce landfill
  • Protect the air, soil and waterways from harmful materials
  • Lower the need for raw materials to make electronic products
  • Reduce greenhouse gases created when making new materials

This means that e-waste should not be disposed of with general waste. There are a number of ways to dispose of e-waste. For example, if the item is still in working condition you could consider donating it to extend its working life. Most city councils have e-waste disposal programs.

A number of retailers also accept e-waste. For example, Officeworks stores have various e-waste bins where you can dispose of unwanted e-waste in any condition.

When it comes to disposing of batteries, there are various options. B-Cycle is Australia’s official battery recycling scheme and is gradually rolling out drop off sites around Australia. If you need to dispose of car batteries, most mechanics will accept old batteries or you could visit Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You site to find a drop-off site.

To find a general e-waste drop off spot near you, visit TechCollect. TechCollect is a free national recycling service for computers, computer accessories and TVs (e-waste). TechCollect was established in response to the Federal Government’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) and is the only not-for-profit industry backed e-waste recycling service approved under the NTCRS.

With the rapid increases in e-waste and the increasing need to reduce our reliance on primary materials, it’s more important than ever to properly dispose of your e-waste. Here are a few things you should consider before you hire a bin to ensure you get the right bin for the job.

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