E-waste in the workplace

Last updated: 13 January 2021

E-waste or electronic waste is the fastest-growing category of waste worldwide. In 2014, Victoria generated 106,000 tonnes of e-waste. This is projected to increase to around 256,000 tonnes by 2035.

Sending e-waste to landfill can be a risk to the environment and human health. It’s also a waste of valuable resources, which can be reused.

To combat this, in 2019 the Victorian Government banned e-waste from landfill. This ban requires all businesses to assess their processes for handling and managing of e-waste.

As a result, many businesses who currently do not engage the services of a properly accredited e-waste collection or processing partner, may need to.

What is e-waste?

E-waste is any item with a plug, battery or power cord that’s no longer working or wanted. It covers a whole range of items from phones and refrigerators to fluorescent light tubes.

E-waste items that may be in your workplace

  • Air conditioner
  • Automatic dispenser such as hand soap dispenser
  • Batteries
  • Cables
  • Coffee machine
  • Computer peripherals such as screens, keyboards, cords and mouses
  • Desktop computer
  • Electric fan
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Headphones
  • Inverter
  • Laptop
  • Kettle
  • Label maker
  • Lamps
  • Large appliances such as a fridge or washing machine
  • Microwave
  • Modem
  • Mobile phone
  • Power tools
  • Printer cartridge
  • Radio
  • Sandwich press
  • Television

Why e-waste can’t go in the bin

When we throw e-waste into landfill not only are we putting hazardous materials into the ground, we are wasting valuable non-renewable resources. If we are to keep doing so at our current rate, it’s likely that core materials used in electronic devices like lead, silver and zinc will become extremely scarce as soon as 2030.

The Global E-waste Monitor estimated that the total value of all raw materials present in e-waste in 2016 was approximately $80 billion.

Making objects from raw materials and then disposing of them in landfill is not a sustainable business model.

As materials in e-waste can be recovered for re-use there is no reason why these cannot be used many times over if we make a conscious and collective effort to make a positive change.

Where to take workplace e-waste

E-waste cannot go in the rubbish or recycling bin.

Take e-waste to a drop off point. To find your closest e-waste drop off point, use the Recycling Near You directory.

Some councils allow small businesses to drop off their e-waste, but some don’t. Check the waste and recycling advice for your local council.

Other e-waste services

Laptops

The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme has designated collection points across Victoria for households and small businesses. These are provided by:

Don't forget to properly remove data from your devices. E-waste organisations should be able to provide you with detailed options on how data can be destroyed.

You should consider the following:

  • Can they come to you and erase the data at your premises? This is important if data is especially sensitive.
  • What wiping procedures or software do they use to erase data?
  • Do they shred the device? Do they do it on their premises or elsewhere?
  • Can they certify that all data has been destroyed?

Mobile phones

MobileMuster provides a free mobile phone collection program for all businesses and individuals. The program accepts all brands and types of mobile phones, plus their batteries, chargers and accessories. The MobileMuster collection network provides 3500 public drop-off points across the country along with a free post back option.

Find a MobileMuster drop off point

Batteries

Batteryback is a retail collection program for used handheld batteries. It collects all batteries that can be found in mobile phones, video cameras, digital cameras, hearing aids, cordless phones, power tools and many other products.

Drop-off points in Melbourne include:

Printer cartridges

Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is a program that collects and returns printer cartridges for remanufacturing.

Register for workplace cartridge collections.

Using a waste removal provider

If your business generates e-waste that cannot be managed through one of the free recycling schemes mentioned above, check with your current waste removal provider to see if they can collect it. If not, you may need to contact a specialist e-waste collection business.

To ensure you enlist a reputable operator that will transfer your e-waste to a fully-accredited reprocessor, it’s worth checking what certifications the reprocessor has.

Externally audited certifications to look out for include:

  • EPA Licence – Issued by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria for businesses that reprocess more than 500 tonnes of e-waste.
  • AS/NZS 5377:2013 –The Australian and New Zealand Standard for the collection, storage, transport and treatment of end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment.
  • Responsible Recycling (R2: 2013) standard – Issued by the American National Standards Institute.

Find an e-waste recycler near you

Implement a workplace e-waste plan

The first step of implementing a successful e-waste plan is to understand the types of e-waste your business or organisation produces, or is likely to produce. This will help you formulate a plan to manage it in a secure and cost-effective way.

Start by considering:

  • What kind of e-waste do you produce?
  • How much do you produce, per month, per quarter, per year?
  • Where is your e-waste located?
  • What asset management plans do you have in place?
  • Do you have someone in the business responsible for managing e-waste?
  • What e-waste services do you currently use?

Once you know what e-waste you produce and need to dispose of, you can identify suitable options.

Follow EPA's guidelines for how to handle e-waste in the workplace

Minimise e-waste

The best way to address the issue of e-waste is to minimise the amount we create in the first place.

Another scheme businesses can use to minimise their e-waste is vendor takeback.

This is where the supplier who sold you the piece of equipment collects it after it has reached the end of its useful life or when you no longer need it. Even if you’re buying equipment from a new supplier, it’s worth asking if they can collect your old items.