Queensland Sustainable Schools

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Department of Education and Training

eWaste

Overview

Electronic waste or ‘eWaste’ is the fastest growing waste stream in the country. Much of the equipment entering the waste stream does so because it is technologically obsolete, not because it is no longer functional.

In 2008, over 37 million computers and 17 million televisions were sent to landfill or were already in landfill - and that was in Australia alone! Likewise more than 30 million redundant mobile phones are sitting in Australian homes or offices waiting to be discarded (Clean Up Australia Fact Sheet, 2009).

eWaste disposal to landfill is problematic as many electrical devices contain toxic substances within their components (such as the heavy metals lead, mercury and cadmium) that can leach out from eWaste to contaminate groundwater and soil surrounding landfill sites, proving a significant health risk to humans and local ecosystems.

Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

Thankfully, there are numerous options for managing eWaste in a more eco-friendly manner than disposal to landfill; these follow the 4Rs - Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

  • Refuse to buy or select:
    • electronic equipment that cannot be reused or recycled or has a short product life
    • printer cartridges that cannot be refilled
    • disposable products that cannot be repaired or have limited warranties
    • non-biodegradable toners and inks.
  • Reduce the continual upgrading of electronic equipment.
    • If possible refurbish or repair appliances and equipment before purchasing new items or complete systems to minimize the impact of eWaste on the environment.
    • Extending the life of a product also means that the energy used and carbon emissions produced during its production are spread over a longer period of time.
  • Reuse electronic devices or equipment as much as possible before disposal:
    • refill printer cartridges
    • select rechargeable batteries over standard single-use batteries
    • donate computers, monitors and printers to local charities to be refurbished and made available to individuals in need or schools in disadvantaged areas.
  • Recycle as many eWaste components as possible (over 90% of a computer can be recycled), using an appropriate method of recycling:
    • look out for local council eWaste kerbside collections or pickups
    • check out the useful eWaste recycling links and service providers below.

Thankfully, there are numerous options for managing eWaste in a more eco-friendly manner than disposal to landfill; these follow the 4Rs - Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

  • Refuse to buy or select:
    • electronic equipment that cannot be reused or recycled or has a short product life
    • printer cartridges that cannot be refilled
    • disposable products that cannot be repaired or have limited warranties
    • non-biodegradable toners and inks.
  • Reduce the continual upgrading of electronic equipment.
    • If possible refurbish or repair appliances and equipment before purchasing new items or complete systems to minimize the impact of eWaste on the environment.
    • Extending the life of a product also means that the energy used and carbon emissions produced during its production are spread over a longer period of time.
  • Reuse electronic devices or equipment as much as possible before disposal:
    • refill printer cartridges
    • select rechargeable batteries over standard single-use batteries
    • donate computers, monitors and printers to local charities to be refurbished and made available to individuals in need or schools in disadvantaged areas.
  • Recycle as many eWaste components as possible (over 90% of a computer can be recycled), using an appropriate method of recycling:
    • look out for local council eWaste kerbside collections or pickups
    • check out the useful eWaste recycling links and service providers below.

Useful eWaste recycling links

General information

Batteries

Computers and monitors

Printer cartridges

Mobile phones

General information

Batteries

Computers and monitors

Printer cartridges

Mobile phones