What is E-waste
E-waste is now the fastest growing waste stream in Australia, as the public purchases increasing amounts of ever-cheaper electronic products. With planned obsolescence meaning many products have a useful life of only a year or more, people are increasingly storing old electronic items at home because they don’t know what to do with them, or – worse for the environment and health – they are being dumped in landfill.
Environmental and Human Impacts
The electronic products we use everyday have an impact on the environment and humans. Electronics need inputs of energy and raw materials including metals, oil and water to make, store and transport them. When a product reaches its end of life more energy is used for its disposal, including for transport to landfill. Products then breakdown and may release hazardous substances or greenhouse gases. Some of these include toxic contents include lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. Products in landfill also represent a loss of valuable resources.
Watch the Story of Electronics video to learn about where our electronic gadgets come from, and how they impact us and our planet.
What can you do to help?
First, you should never throw e-waste in the trash! E-waste does not need to be wasted. There are many simple actions you can take to reduce the amount of e-waste going to landfill including:
One of the easiest changes you can make is simply buy less stuff. Think twice before buying a new electronic gadget when an upgrade or new device becomes available. When an electronic device breaks, ask yourself if you really need to replace it.
Could you borrow an electronic device from a friend? Could you share them with others?
Collaborative consumption is a great way to reduce the amount of new purchases you make by sharing electronic items we own with family, friends and neighbours, rather than having individual ownership. Sharing means less has to be produced in the first place and less will be thrown out and end up in landfill. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with others in your area and to build stronger communities.
Popular websites for sharing electronic items are OpenShed and Friendswiththings. Unfortunately Darwinites haven’t as yet embraced these fantastic sharing platforms. We encourage you to get online and start sharing your stuff now.
Other types of sharing activities taking place include cars, clothes and food. To find out what sharing facilities are available near you Click here. If you absolutely must own a particular electronic device or upgrade your phone or computer then choose products that are long lasting, durable, easy to repair and from companies that are doing their most to be green and ethical.
To get the low-down on environmental and social record of companies behind common brands you buy, and to help you choose a more sustainable and ethical product check out the following resources:
Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics
The Shop Ethical app
The Baptist World Aid Ethical Electronics Guide
The EPEAT website
By choosing electronic products that are designed with sustainability in mind you are encouraging manufacturers to be smarter about the way they design products and helping society move towards a circular economy. Check out these two fantastic initiatives, Jump Start Project and Social Traders, assisting students and enterprises to achieve and contribute to sustainable social impact and change.
If you upgrade to a new device and your old one is still in good condition or you’re looking for a second hand device, reuse is the most environmentally friendly option.
Try these resourceful reuse initiatives:
- Regift to a friend or family member
- Repurpose items at the Shoal Bay Recycle Shop
- Donate to a charity like Frilly’s or via Givit, GiveNow or Workventures
- Sell, swap or giveaway using services like DarwinSwapBuySell, Gumtree, Ebay, Freecycle, Ziilch, or Tradingpost
One approach to the e-waste predicament gaining momentum is the re-emergence of the do-it-yourself repair culture. There is a growing movement of pop up repair café’s, women’s and men’s sheds, and web sites that provide free, easy-to-follow step-by-step advice, repair guides and videos.
So next time an electronic device breaks down, don’t toss it out and buy a new replacement because it seems cheaper and less hassle – try and repair it instead.
When one considers that retail prices do not include the cost of environmental damage and health issues caused by dumping e-waste in landfills or recycling it unsafely, a new item is not actually “cheaper”.
For free, easy-to-follow step-by-step repair guides and videos, check out iFixit. If you don’t feel confident to repair something then try locating a technician in your local area who can.
NEVER put electronic equipment in your wheelie bins as harmful chemicals and products can leech into the water table if sent straight to landfill. It's also a waste of valuable resources.
Recycling electronic waste means we are protecting the mineral resources that remain in the ground and reduce the environmental impact of mining, such as ground contamination and diminished biodiversity. It also reduces the amount of landfill that we produce each year; in turn this decreases environmental damage and emissions.
Click on the icons below to find out where you can recycle your e-waste in Darwin.
To locate collection services for other types of e-waste in your area, visit the Recycling Near You website. The site contains information about the recycling and waste services offered by your council as well as local drop-off options for items including computers, batteries, printer cartridges, mobile phones and many more.
To locate e-waste collection services available for businesses, visit the Business Recycling website by Planet Ark.
You can also contact your local council to find out what e-waste recycling services they offer for electronic and electrical products. Click here to find out what e-waste items can be recycled through City of Darwin Council.
Know Your Rights Before Buying a New Electronic Device
Before you decide to buy a new electronic device and recycle the old one it pays to know your rights. If an electronic device stops working it doesn’t hurt to check with the seller or manufacturer to see if it is still under warranty or a reasonable amount of usage has passed before it broke. The Australian Consumer Law sets out your rights when it comes to broken or faulty goods. Watch the clip below from Consumer Affairs to learn more about when to ask for a repair or replacement.