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Home electronic waste
Australians are purchasing more and more new technology which also means we are discarding more and more unwanted products. Electronic or electrical technology we no longer need or want is called 'e‑waste', and includes things such as computers, monitors, televisions, home entertainment systems, printers, fax machines and mobile phones. Only about 10% of e-waste is recycled compared to 52% of general waste.
Most people have a range of home entertainment products including sound systems, and many also have a home office or study with printers, scanners, photocopiers and computers, so it's worthwhile considering how you can reduce waste and save money on the technology in your home. Our home entertainment and technology guide can show you how as well as providing valuable energy saving tips.
The most effective way to manage e-waste is to avoid creating e-waste wherever possible. You can do this by selecting the right products for your needs and disposing of e-waste correctly. Many electronic products contain harmful substances such as lead and mercury which can be released into the environment if not disposed of or recycled in an appropriate way.
Electronic and electrical products contain valuable materials and parts that can be recycled and used again. When you recycle, you stop solid and hazardous waste going to landfill and save resources which can be used to manufacture new products. Televisions, computers and other e-waste products contain non-renewable resources such as tin, nickel, zinc, aluminium and copper which can't be used again if sent to landfill.
E-waste also contains hazardous elements such as lead and mercury. Sending these products to landfill means there is a risk that the hazardous substances may be released into the environment where they can seep into groundwater, contaminate soil and enter the food chain causing serious health problems.
For example, mobile phones contain arsenic and lead, printer inks and toners often contain toxic elements such as carbon black and cadmium, and older cathode-ray tube (CRT) computer monitors contain about 20% lead. The same CRTs are also found in older televisions and each contain 2 kilograms of lead. With high definition televisions on the market, a surplus of unwanted old-style televisions is adding to the rising amount of e-waste. In 2007-08, 16.8 million TVs and computers were discarded in Australia—nearly 90% of these were sent to landfill.
There are penalties for dumping electronic products, including outside collection sites and charity bins.
E-waste that can be recycled includes:
- mobile phones and components, and telephone systems
- stereo components, DVD and video players
- computers and accessories
- printers, faxes and scanners
The Australian Government has also introduced an industry-funded National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme for televisions and computers, printers and computer products such as keyboards, mice and hard-drives.
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