Electronic or e-waste basically refers to any electronic products that are no longer working or wanted, and they include TVs, computers, mobile phones, monitors, printers, CD players and VCRs.
According to the Environment, Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC), Australians discarded over 16 million electronic devices over the 2007/8 period and over 88 per cent of those were sent to landfill. In fact, electronic waste is growing three times faster in Australia than any other type of municipal waste product.
Why is e-waste increasing?
It is estimated that the average Australian household uses at least 22 different electronic appliances in their daily lives, and unfortunately, the lifespan of these appliances is decreasing rapidly. In the past, TVs for example that would remain in a home for up to 12 years, are now being turned over in as little as two years. Therefore the quantity of electronic waste in our homes and businesses is increasing along with our demand for new technologies.
Why is it important to recycle electronic or e-waste?
E-waste can leave behind a stream of toxic waste that accumulates in landfill and this can lead to the leaching of dangerous metals like cadmium, lead and mercury into the surrounding soil and groundwater. Health effects can be devastating and can include cancer, tumours and mental health disorders.
The materials in computers and TVs in particular is very recyclable, and the process of e-waste recycling means these can be recovered and reused as raw materials for a range of new products including electronic products.
What is the government doing about e-waste recycling?
The Product Stewardship Act 2011 is legislation that was developed to provide a framework to effectively manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of products, including those associated with the disposal of electronic products. Televisions and computers were some of the first electronic items to be regulated under this legislation via the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS).
Under this industry-funded scheme, companies that import or manufacture more than 5,000 televisions, printers or computers a year are required to help recover end-of-life products and divert them from landfill. They do this by becoming members of one of four authorised recyclers that organise the collection and recycling of specific types of e-waste on their behalf.
In terms of the disposal of electronic equipment, these services cover not just TVs and computers but printers, keyboards, mice, tablets, scanners, photocopiers, and computer accessories. These services are available to all schools, small businesses and householders.
At this stage, Australia does not have a national recycling scheme for electrical appliances as a whole. The existing scheme covers TVs and computers, while specific programs exist for printer cartridges and mobile phones.
In early 2017, the federal government announced it was conducting a review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (which oversees the NTCRS and other recycling schemes). This is to potentially expand the range of e-waste recycling services available, and development updates are regularly posted on their website.
How does the recycling process work?
In terms of getting rid of e-waste, there are more than 1,800 collection points across Australia where householders and small businesses can drop off unwanted TVs, computers and accessories for free. The locations and timings of drop-off points are determined by industry-run recycling arrangements and they differ by state.
Once items are collected by an authorised recycler they are dismantled, and in the case of TVs, the plastics and glass are removed. In the case of a computer, plastics, casings and circuit boards are removed, batteries separated and then some elements are further recycled. A smelter in South Australia recovers any lead, circuit boards go to Japan where metals are recovered, batteries go to Korea to recover cobalt, lithium and/or cadmium, and some plastics go to China for processing. Copper, steel and aluminium is also recycled in Australia, and as a result of all these processes, more than 95% of the materials collected are recovered.
In terms of mobile phones, these are recycled under the industry-led MobileMuster scheme, which is funded by major retailers and carriers via a 42-cent levy on each of the eight to 10 million handsets imported annually. Steel and copper elements are smelted in Australia, batteries processed in Singapore or South Korea, and circuit boards go to Singapore for processing. This means up to 98% of your mobile phone is recycled back to its former material and put back into the supply chain for making new products.
There are more than 3000 MobileMuster collection points around Australia including at all major retailer shopfronts. If you can’t get to one of these drop-off points, you can pick up a reply-paid satchel from Australia Post and send back your unwanted phone and accessories free of charge.
What about data safety issues?
There are no computer data safety issues under the NTCRS scheme because all elements are physically dismantled and destroyed. In terms of e-waste recycling and mobile phones, MobileMuster does not reuse or resell any phones that are collected and everything is recycled for resource recovery. This means that all components are dismantled before further processing takes place, and therefore all data is destroyed in the recycling process.
Here at Cutter Skips, we accept a range of electronic equipment from TV’s and computers to stereos, printers, speakers and other unwanted electrical items. We are also committed to ensuring that any waste we collect from your Brisbane mini skip is taken to a transfer station where recyclable materials are either reused or redistributed.
Have some electronic waste that needs recycling? Get in touch with the experts at Cutters Skips today on 0417 644 901.
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