Where your e-waste goes

Last updated: 25 June 2021

E-waste can’t go in your rubbish or recycling bin. It has to be taken to an e-waste drop-off point.

Where to take your e-waste

When e-waste is disposed of correctly, it can be repurposed. This reduces the need to mine for new metals and materials.

Repurposing e-waste is undertaken by professionals, often using the following process.

Items are carefully disassembled

Depending on the type of device, it may be manually disassembled.

  • Batteries and casings are removed from phones.
  • Steel casings are removed from around hard-drives.
  • Cartridges and toners are detached from printers.
  • The glass from TVs and monitors (especially older ones) will be carefully separated to avoid the release of any toxic lead or mercury that may be present.

Remaining components are shredded

After initial disassembly, the remaining items and components are sent to a shredder. This reduces the size of components to between 1cm and 10cm. All data is destroyed from devices at this point. But don't forget to properly remove your personal data before dropping off your e-waste.

Raw materials are processed and sorted

Sorting of the shredded material is often a manual process, though automated machines are also used.

Several processes are used including:

  • magnets to remove ferrous metals, such as steel
  • eddy currents to separate non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium
  • infrared beams, lasers or X-rays and bursts of compressed air to identify various plastics and other metals
  • water is used to separate plastics from glass
  • any contaminants are treated and removed.

Repurposing materials

Once all the materials have been sorted into their raw form they can be resold to suppliers to make new products.

While most of our e-waste is dismantled into its various components here in Australia, some materials are sent overseas for final processing. Many batteries are sent to South Korea, while circuit boards and batteries go to Singapore for processing. Other components, such as copper, steel and plastics, are smelted here in Australia.

The goal is to make a closed loop. This means a new product isn’t made from raw materials. Instead, it’s made from materials that have been recovered from used products. This, in turn, makes the new products completely recoverable too, so the loop continues.

Once all the different materials of your e-waste are back in the supply chain, they can be reused to make almost anything.

Repurposing e-waste materials into new products

Plastic is reused in:

  • plastic fence posts
  • pallets
  • castings
  • toys
  • keyboards.

Batteries are reused as new batteries.

Precious metals are reused in jewellery and new electronics.

Glass is recycled into:

  • screens for TVs and monitors
  • homewares.

Other metals are reused in new products and cabling.

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