Fact: Australians are one of the highest users of new technology in the world.
Fact: Australians buy more than 4 million computers and 3 million televisions annually.
Fact: Of the 15.7 million computers that reached the ‘end of life’ in Australia in 2008, only 1.5 million were recycled (less than 10%).
Fact: These statistics are worsening every year.
Electronic waste (also known as E-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste issues in Australia, yet most people have never even considered recycling their electronics. It’s not something that's widely discussed or promoted. Then again, neither is clothing waste.
Why is E-waste such a large issue?
The disposal of unwanted electronic items – everything from mobile phones and computers to fridges and microwaves – can have a detrimental impact on the environment. With the average Australian household currently utilising at least 22 different electronic appliances, the level of toxic waste in landfill is increasing every day. This waste leaks dangerous metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury that not only cause damage to the surrounding soil and groundwater but also impact on human health. Research conducted by the University of Queensland National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology shows that tumours, mental health disorders and cancer are just some of said impacts.
But danger to the environment and our health isn't the only reason we should be recycling our electronics correctly. Most of the devices and appliances we use are made from valuable resources such as metal, plastic and glass – all of which require energy to mine and manufacture.
Studies show that if 75% of the 1.5 million televisions discarded yearly were recycled, there would be savings of 23,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents, 520 mega litres of water, 400,000 gigajoules of energy and 160,000 cubic metres of landfill space.
… And that’s just TVs.
How can you help?
Recycling electronics in a safe and environmentally friendly way is essential if we want to create a sustainable future. Most manufacturers and retailers offer several options to donate or recycle electronics – all it takes is a bit of research. Calling 1800EWASTE and arranging for them to collect your items is another option.