Every household has one or two (or more) hiding in the back of that rarely visited cupboard, slipped there years ago and promptly forgotten.
We are talking about what is collectively known as E-Waste – any item with a plug, battery or cord that is no longer working or wanted, and can’t be repaired or re-homed.
This covers everything from mobile phones, computers and TVs, to larger household items and white goods such as fridges, heaters and vacuums.
It also covers items used almost exclusively by women including such beauty products as old hair dryers, straighteners, curlers, epilators, electric shavers and toothbrushes, cleansing brushes, face steamers and handheld massage devices, just to name a few.
While we love our beauty tools, the average female has a number of them lying around the house, many no longer working or wanted. And as it is the woman of the house who is also usually responsible for electric cooking and baking appliances (old and new), our responsibilities can be immense.
Throwing them out with the weekly rubbish is banned by governments around Australia on environmental grounds with Victoria specifically passing laws in July this year stopping E-Waste being sent to landfill.
SA laws banning E-Waste going to landfill came into effect in 2013 with on-the-spot penalties of up to $1000 for residential quantities. For serious offences dumping (in landfill, skips & bins) can attract fines of up to $120,000 or imprisonment for 2 years (commercial quantities).
The Victorian government said it was introducing the ban to protect Victoria’s environment and recover more precious resources – throwing E-Waste in the bin ends up in landfill wasting non-renewable resources like nickel, copper and silver.
The valuable materials recovered from all E-Waste recycling can be turned into items such as pallets, cabling, computer screens and many more.
Sustainability Victoria’s Interim CEO, Carl Muller, commended Victorians on their efforts to dispose of their E-Waste correctly, and urged more to do the same.
“It’s clear from the increase in E-Waste being collected at drop-off points around the state that many Victorians are collectively making a real effort to dispose of their old electronics properly – this is so encouraging and we urge more people to follow suit,” he said.
“Repairing, selling or donating electronics is a great way to give these items a second life – however, if they’re no longer working or wanted, there are a number of drop-off points across Victoria that will accept your e-waste to recover valuable materials.
“Every action, no matter how small, can contribute to a circular economy in which we utilise the maximum value of resources from existing products and materials and reduce the amount of waste we generate.”
Last year, the world produced more than 44.7 million tonnes of E-Waste, with 700,000 tonnes generated in Australia. The amount of global E-Waste is expected to increase by almost 17%, to 52.2 million tonnes in 2021, or around 8% every year.
So without significant measures to reduce this – the delicious cocktail of lead, mercury, cadmium, barium & lithium leaching into our soil & waterways will increase to Ganges style proportions if we do not make changes now.
John Gertsakis, Director of the E-waste Watch Institute & Adjunct Professor with the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, said: “Banning all forms of e-waste & batteries from landfill is an essential step towards achieving a circular economy & conserving resources, which are used to manufacture electronics.
“We also need more brands & retailers to step up to the stewardship challenge, providing consumer-friendly take-back, reuse & recycling services.”
Coinciding with its new laws, the Victorian Government has produced information lists to help, not only Victorians, but all Australians, to minimise E-Waste and, when necessary, dispose of it.
TOP 5 WAYS TO MINIMISE YOUR E-WASTE
- Re-evaluate to reduce
The best way to minimise e-waste is to rethink new purchases. Before buying your next electronic item, decide if it’s actually necessary. Do you really need that second phone, laptop, or upgrade to that latest TV? Perhaps there is one item you can purchase with multiple functions, rather than buying five separate products. By becoming a conscious consumer, you can reduce the amount of waste produced from electronic products.
- Quality is key
If you are looking to purchase a new electronic item, consider investing in a good quality product that is durable and energy-efficient. Not only will the item last longer, it will consume a lot less energy and save you money in the long run. Renting larger household items such as washing machines, dryers and refrigerators can also be a good option if you only need the item for a set period of time.
- Maintain your electronics
By looking after your electronic devices, you’ll not only increase the lifespan of your gadgets, but also save money on having to constantly replace broken items. Simple care and maintenance such as using a phone or laptop case, cleaning out your washing machine’s filter every few weeks or getting your vacuum serviced regularly, can minimise damage. If you do run into trouble with your electronics, consider looking into options to repair them in the first instance.
- Sharing is caring
If you’ve got a number of nifty electronics that mostly sit around unused, sharing them with your local friendship circle or community group is a great way to give them a second life. Sharing and borrowing appliances that may only be required for one-off use will reduce the rate of consumption. If your gadget is of no use to you at all, why not consider donating it to a friend, family member or charity organisation? After all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
- Dispose correctly
If your electronic item is broken and beyond repair or donation, ensure that you visit your nearest e-waste drop-off point to dispose of your e-waste correctly. Not only will this help to protect the environment and our health, it will recover valuable non-renewable resources than can be turned into new products. Check your nearest e-waste drop-off point by visiting: ewaste.vic.gov.au.
TOP 5 STEPS TO DISPOSE OF YOUR E-WASTE CORRECTLY
- Diagnose the disposal
Not sure if your item is classified as e-waste? The Victorian Government defines e-waste as ‘anything with a plug, battery or power cord that is no longer wanted or useful.’ Importantly, e-waste also includes cables, printing cartridges and batteries. That’s right, it’s not just laptops and mobile phones. Be sure to check the full list of e-waste items at ewaste.vic.gov.au.
- Donate, sell, repair
If you have an electronic item that still works safely but is no longer wanted or needed, is there a person or group that could benefit from it and prolong its lifespan? Perhaps a family member or friend, or your office or local community group? Can it be sold? Determine if you can give away, donate or sell in the first instance. If the item is broken, can it be repaired and restored to give it a new lease on life instead of buying a new one?
- Remove personal data
Before taking your e-waste to a better place, think about what type of information it may contain. Items such as computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones often contain personal details such emails, files, photos, downloads, apps and various passwords. It’s important to wipe this information from any personal item beforehand to protect your identity and privacy. By checking with the item’s manufacturer, you can find out how to easily and securely wipe data before disposing of your e-waste. Before wiping your data, ensure all of your information is backed up on an external hard drive or flash drive.
- Visit your nearest e-waste drop-off point
If your item can’t be donated, given away, sold or repaired, you can safely dispose of your e-waste at drop-off points across the state including local council transfer stations, Officeworks, MobileMuster and many more. These collection points keep e-waste out of landfill and enable their materials to be recovered and reused for new products, benefiting the environment, the economy and our health. Find your nearest e-waste drop-off point by heading to: ewaste.vic.gov.au.
- Spread the word
Share your e-waste inspiration with your friends, family, local community and workplace. Once you’ve properly disposed of your e-waste, become a leader in conscious consumerism and ensure any new products you are purchasing are durable, with a low carbon footprint. Raising awareness of how we can work together to dispose of e-waste correctly will not only reduce harm to the environment and our health, it will also help protect our planet for generations to come.
She Society is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.