By Matthew Devitt.
A worker in China climbs through a mountain of computer e-waste.
"Out of sight, out of mind" is a common expression that we all know, and when it comes to e-waste, it's a phrase that perfectly sums up the problem.
Computers, mobile phone, televisions, cables, MP3 players and many more items are being purchased, and just as quickly disposed of, at an accelerating rate.
In fact, from 2007 until 2016 alone, more than 7 billion smartphones have been created.
Just let that sink in for a second.
Me personally, well I've already lost count of how many different mobile phones I've already owned. 8? 10? Maybe a dozen? It's a scary figure to think about.
"If you took every smartphone created in the last 25 years and laid them out flat, you could cover an area the size of Ireland and Switzerland combined."
An ocean of discarded mobile phones - many of which end up in the real ocean.
As technology keeps improving, so does the desire to upgrade and to the newest model, and abandon the existing one. Right now I'm writing this blog post on a shiny iMac, but it won't be long before I'll be wanting to upgrade to a newer, faster, shinier version. So what do we do with all of our amazing electronics that are no longer needed?
Well, generally we have just thrown it in the bin or taken it to the dump, and forgotten all about it. What could possibly go wrong?
Apart from the sheer size and weight of all the unwanted items, most e-waste (especially computers and mobile phones) contains dangerous chemicals and harmful metals (Lead, Mercury and Cadmium just to name a few), which are all required to make the products as amazing as they are in the first place.
These chemicals and metals, if not recycled or disposed of properly, invariably end up in landfill or in our water supply, where they can do a scary amount of damage.
"In the USA, e-waste makes up only 2% of total landfill, but a staggering 70% of total toxic waste."
Mobile phones are largely made from non-renewable materials and are not biodegradable, and in many cases require a huge amount of energy and resources to mine and gather the raw materials needed for their construction. Mobile phones and computers actually contain quite a lot of copper, gold and silver which can be reused - but the biggest challenge is extracting these materials safely from the discarded items.
...and now the good news.
Many people aren't aware yet, but there is a growing number of organisations and companies in Australia that can re-condition, re-use and re-cycle e-waste for you. In many cases, items can have up to 90% of their materials reused and recycled - and this percentage is constantly increasing.
The infographic to the left is from the mobilemuster.com.au website, and shows the recycling process of mobile phones and some of the products they can be converted into.
We believe that with great technology comes great responsibility, and we have a duty to ensure that we make a conscious effort to think about the life cycle of our e-products.
Considering how simple it now is to responsibly dispose of electronic items, there's really no reason to throw any of it straight in the bin.
Some e-waste recycling companies have drop-off points where you can dispose of your items yourself, and others even have a pickup servicer to collect the items from your home or business - you can't get any more convenient than that!
If you want to do your part and recycle your e-waste, check out the following Australian organisations:
electronicrecyclingaustralia.com.au (Adelaide & greater SA)
ecoactiv.com.au/ewaste (Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane)
dropzone.org.au (SA, ACT & VIC)
Leave your comments in the section below and we'll continue this conversation.
As far as nicknames go, The Big Brown Land is a little unfair on Australia. It really undersells it. If you’re a country, you don’t want to be described as big and brown, you want words like breathtaking, green and stunning to precede your name (unless of course you’re Germany, then you would probably be happy with one adjective: Efficient).
But what we’re saying is Australia is a beautiful country full of scenery that consistently surprises. From sweeping coastlines that look like they’ve been lifted straight from your computer’s wallpaper, to luscious, dense rainforests and those interminable stretches of nothingness in-between. It’s a wonderful place to get out and explore.
The best thing about Australia’s cities is that you don’t need to get out too far to start exploring. In every capital city you can drive out to a hiking spot in less than time than it takes most Californians to drive to work in the morning. Here are some of the best places in (or near) this country’s big cities to pull on the active wear, ready the calves and go for a bit of a hike.
Mt Lofty. It’s the Sunday morning haunt for so many Adelaideans. Whether they’re wheezing their way up the mountain, getting in your way to take selfies or running like absolute madmen, the Mount can feel like Hindley Street some Sundays. But don’t let the throngs of people tarnish your opinion on the hike, it’s actually a really nice walk. Thankfully, the steepest part of the hike is also the prettiest, so you can be forgiven for slowing right down to ‘appreciate nature’.
For a quieter and slightly easier walk, head just a bit north to Morialta Conservation Park. The oft-forgotten cousin of Mount Lofty, Morialta gives you a choice of walks ranging in difficulty from doddle to deathwish. Plus, there are waterfalls. Seriously, how could you not like a waterfall?
We couldn’t possibly choose just one for Brisbane, the city’s surrounded by some of Australia’s finest hiking trails. Most of these tracks are about an hour from the CBD. For the vegetation nerds out there, Lamington National Park gives you a healthy choice of trails with a healthy diversity of trees and plants to gawk at. Check out Dave’s Creek Circuit for an interesting walk with cliff views.
For more of a challenge, head up to Mt Tibrogargan. The mountain might look intimidating, but conquering this bad boy is worth it for the views alone. Not to mention how good you feel about yourself afterwards, if your legs still work.
Sure it’s closer to Bacchus Marsh than Melbourne, but the Werribee Gorge Circuit is a worthy day-trip. At around 10kms the hike will take you between 3 and 4 hours, but make a day of it and pack yourself a lunch. You’ll sit down to some very Australian landscapes and river views over cliffs.
If you feel like bookending your day with a bit of wine tasting head out east, past Ringwood and toward Mt Riddell in the Yarra Ranges. The slightly cooler climate means green scenery almost year-round.
If you’ve got half a day up your sleeves, we strongly suggest that you head south to Bundeena for the 12 kilometre Bundeena to Wattamolla track. The Royal National Park’s coastal track makes for a serene hike, but if you really want to sip in the ambience of the area, try the Paddle and Walk Tour. Hire yourself a kayak or stand-up paddle board and get exploring.
Of course, for an overwhelming choice of some of Australia’s most serene scenic walks, the Blue Mountains is worthy of the slightly longer trip. Check out the National Pass (pictured above).
Perth has an abundance of shorter walks within a decent stone’s throw of the city and suburbs. For a good chance at spotting kangaroos and wedge-tailed eagles, head up to Brigadoon and Jumbuck Hill Park. At 9 kilometres it’s a fairly easy affair for the fit, but rewarding nonetheless. The views from the climb up Mt Mambup are excellent, while winter walks take in a flowing Swan River and even a waterfall.
If a shorter trail is more your style, the Whistlepipe Gully Walk is a 3 ½ kilometre trip up the hills to Kalamunda. The trail follows the river and takes in a number of cute little waterfalls.
It’s not so brown and flat, get out and explore your cities outskirts, they’re full of gems.
What have we missed? Let us know, leave a comment below. And you can always share the ways in which you #LiveAGreenlife by using the hashtag.
There is something so appealing about living a completely self-sufficient life. Imagine sleeping under your air conditioner that’s powered by your solar panels, waking up to the sound of your chooks, eating homegrown eggs and tomatoes for brekky and getting drunk of your own (admittedly average tasting) home-brew.
It conjures up some nice feelings, no?
And while going off grid might be a bit of a pipe dream, there are a few easy ways to live a more self-sufficient life. And no, this doesn’t mean closing your blinds, refusing to answer your door and becoming a shut-in.
You don’t need to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere to be a bit more self-reliant. We’ve put together a few steps you can take towards living a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle.
Sure, it’s an obvious suggestion, but it is the best place to start. Growing your own vegetables is a gratifying way to be that little more self-sufficient. For some very unscientific reason, salads taste 400% better when they contain a tomato from your own garden. And if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care for the dirt and hard graft of gardening, this is the best introduction because you literally have results you can eat.
Virtually no space is too small for some sort of veggie patch. Even if you live in an apartment, you can still grow some herbs on your window sill.
We suggest beginning with a fairly robust, please-all plant like the tomato, although you may want to get a little fruitier with your patch. For some inspiration on your backyard veggie patch, have a look at The Little Veggie Patch Co’s work.
Especially if you have kids. Chooks are a lot of fun to keep, and once they start laying, are quite possibly the most giving of all pets. They even develop their own little personalities or should that be chickenalities?
Your chooks will need a safe coop away from predators with somewhere to sleep and a spot to roam during the day. You can make a weekend out of building it, or buy a prefab one like this and sit back.
You may want to check with your neighbours on whether they would welcome chooks onto their street. Chickens are chatterboxes. Also keep in mind that you might want to keep your chicks away from your veggie patch, unless you want them scratching around the newly-planted seeds.
Because who likes dealing with electricity companies? More to the point, who likes dealing with electricity companies and then giving them heaps of your money?
By generating your own power you might still have to have an account with an electricity retailer, but you won’t be lining their pockets quite so much. And what’s more, installing solar panels means that your house will be contributing to a greener earth.
Solar is a big leap toward a self-sufficient household. And now with companies like Tesla and Panasonic making batteries, you can turn your back on the grid at nighttime too!
A sensible step for anyone who owns their own house is installing a water tank. Water that would otherwise run off through stormwater drains and into rivers and beaches can be used for watering the garden, washing clothes or for your own vengeful purposes.
Even if you don’t have too much space outside, a small water tank can reduce the amount of water you use, save a bit of cash and make you a little bit more self-sufficient.
Okay, you’re probably not going to be growing wheat, grinding it down and making flour anytime soon. But you can get a big old sack of wheat flour from the market and start baking. It’s a fairly simple skill to get a hold of, and the bread you bake tastes so much better than this nonsense.
You can even get a bit creative with your doughs, chuck in some fruit or herbs to put your own spin on your loaf. There’s plenty of breadspiration here. And by baking your own bread you can stop giving all of your money to the fat cat bakery elite.
Making your own cheese and yoghurt is not only an exercise in culinary creativity, but it can mean that you will never have to chuck out milk nearing its use-by date again. Yoghurt and soft cheeses are surprisingly easy to get started with, although there are plenty of cheesemakers running classes.
Not only is composting a great way to reduce your household waste that ends up at landfill, but a properly maintained compost is one of the best thing you can use to prepare your veggie patch’s soil. All you need to start composting is a compost bin, which you can choose to build yourself or buy.
Tip: Keep a container for food scraps under your sink in your kitchen that way you’re more likely to think about compost before chucking out food scraps.
What are your tips and reasons for becoming more self-sufficient? Perhaps you’re wanting to reduce your home’s environmental legacy or maybe you’re convinced that the world is going to end via a deadly (if hilarious) nuclear holocaust/pie fight. Let us know below in the comments.
And don't forget that you can always share the ways in which you live a greenlife by using the hashtag #liveagreenlife.