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Friday, June 16, 2017

Computer Recycling

Computers are an integral part of daily life, but as they and other electronic devices become obsolete more and more quickly, we're faced with the growing problem of disposing of all our e-waste properly. A UN initiative called StEP (Solving the E-waste Problem) estimates that by 2017 there will be 65.4 million tonnes of e-waste generated globally every year. And Australians contribute more than their fair share of that, with each of us generating 25 kilos a year.
e-waste, discarded computer equipment comprises monitors, printers, hard drives and circuit boards. Such items should on no account be thrown out with your household rubbish because they contain toxic substances, and are effectively hazardous waste. E-waste often ends up in the developing world, and the UN’s Environment Programme is alarmed by the amount of electronic goods which is improperly disposed of overseas. There is increasing concern about the pollution caused by hazardous chemicals and heavy metals in Africa, Asia and South America.
What’s in my PC?
MaterialProportion
Plastic
Ferrous metals
Non-ferrous metals
Electronic boards
Glass
23%
32%
18%
12%
15%
A single computer can contain up to 2kg of lead, and the complex mixture of materials make PCs very difficult to recycle.
Electronic products thrown into landfill leak toxic materials into soil and water, resulting in contamination of the food chain. Additionally, rare and non-renewable materials are wasted instead of being re-used. New government-backed recycling efforts have been put in place across most of Australia to meet the national e-recycling target of 80 per cent by the end of 2021.

Where to donate your computer to be refurbished in Australia

If your computer's not too old and still in good nick, there are some community recycling initiatives that refurbish computers and offer them to nonprofit groups.
Some Technical Aid to the Disabled organisations are registered refurbishers, while others may accept donations on a case-by-case basis. Contact your state or territory's branch and ask if they accept computer donations.

Other computer refurbishers include:

  • Business to Community Recyclers (Vic) 
  • Computerbank (Vic)
  • Computerbank (Qld)
  • Computerbank (Newcastle)
Planet Ark's Recycling Near You website lets you search by area or product to find a local recycling centre.
Give Now has a list of places that can refurbish computers nationally.

Why is e-waste so bad?

Toxic materials and hazardous chemicals are often used in the manufacture of computer and electronic equipment, and when parts are disposed of improperly these chemicals can leach into soil and water and lead to environmental contamination.
To prevent hazardous chemicals from leaking into soil and storm water drains, computer and electronic equipment must not be thrown out with your rubbish. Also avoid leaving computer waste standing outside for long periods, particularly during wet weather.
While manufacturing methods are said to have improved, many companies continue to use toxic chemicals and primary materials over recycled parts.

What chemicals are in my e-waste?

The roll call of toxic materials is long and includes:
  • Mercury (used in LCD screens)
  • Lead 
  • Cadmium (used in batteries) - known to cause cancer in humans
  • Beryllium (found in motherboards) - a known carcinogen and can cause lung disorders if inhaled
  • Chromium (used to prevent corrosion) - can cause liver and kidney damage as well as skin reactions
  • Antimony - can cause gastrointestinal disorders
  • Arsenic - a known carcinogen
  • Brominated flame retardants (used in circuit boards, cables and plastic casing) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (used in casing and connectors) - toxic when burned and can collect in the environment.