Why e-waste can't go in the bin

Last updated: 21 July 2021

E-waste is the world’s fastest growing waste stream. Australians are amongst the highest users and disposers of technology. This is due to increased technology trends, reduced product lifespans and consumer demand for new products.

There are two problems with sending e-waste to landfill. It contains:

  • hazardous materials, which can harm the environment and human health.
  • valuable materials, which can be reused.

In Victoria, it’s estimated a total of 109,000 tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2015. It’s projected to increase by about 256,000 tonnes by 2035. That’s a total of 34,908,170 TVs!

In 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide. Of this enormous figure, only about 20% was recycled.

Over the coming years, the amount of global e-waste is expected to increase to 52.2 million tonnes by 2021, or around 8% every year.

When you dispose of your e-waste correctly, you:

  • reduce landfill
  • protect the air and waterways from harmful materials
  • lower the need of raw materials to make electronic products
  • reduce greenhouse gases created when making new materials.

Environmental benefits

Most e-waste contains hazardous materials. These can range from heavy metals such as lead, mercury, chemicals found in fridges like ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and flame retardants.

Even in small amounts, these dangerous chemicals can cause environmental contamination or even causing fires in landfills. When millions of e-waste items are dumped in landfill or stored inappropriately, the situation becomes much more serious.

They can leach dangerous amounts of hazardous substances into our groundwater, soil and air. As these substances don’t break down easily, the result can be long term environmental pollution.

Reusing valuable materials

The Victorian Government is building a circular economy through the Recycling Victoria policy. This means we should reuse valuable materials instead of mining raw materials, where possible.

Electric goods contain a whole range of precious materials, including:

  • tin
  • copper
  • nickel
  • silver
  • zinc
  • gold
  • aluminium
  • platinum.

While each individual object contains only a very small amount of each precious metal, this can quickly add up when we consider how many objects and devices are incorrectly disposed of or hoarded each year.

It’s important we reuse these materials because they are non-renewable. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. But if e-waste is properly recycled, these materials and parts can be recycled and reused endlessly.

By reusing what we’ve already mined, we’re not only cutting costs, we’re also reducing the greenhouse gasses released by the mining, processing and transportation of these raw materials.

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