We need to talk about Australia's e-waste problem.

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.

Breakdown of smartphone materials and chemicals 

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)

techcollect.com.au

ecoactiv.com.au/ewaste (Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane)

mobilemuster.com.au

dropzone.org.au (SA, ACT & VIC)

ewaste.com.au

 

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