Reduce, reuse, recycle – electronic recycling made easy

Amy Robertson, Burwood Bulletin

ELECTRONIC waste. We all have it – stashed in cupboards, drawers or garages around our homes. Old televisions, outdated tablets and broken laptops, sitting on shelves, gathering dust. But what if there was a free and easy way to dispose of our unused e-waste responsibly?

TechCollect is a not-for-profit e-waste recycling service, established and funded by many of Australia’s leading computer and TV manufacturers and importers. They partner with local councils and waste disposal groups to recycle e-waste, by harvesting the raw materials for re-use in new products.

There are drop off sites throughout Australia, which can be found on TechCollect’s website. Most councils will not accept e-waste through hard rubbish collections. Residents living in Melbourne’s East are encouraged to drop off their e-waste to the Whitehorse Recycling and Waste Centre, 638-648 Burwood Highway, Vermont South. TechCollect accept laptops and cables, tablets and notebooks, computer monitors, parts and accessories, printers, faxes, scanners and televisions.

CEO of TechCollect, Carmel Dollisson, says at least 90 per cent of materials received at TechCollect are recovered and reused.

“It takes a lot of energy and money to manufacture these materials, so once they are manufactured we should keep them in the cycle, either through reuse or recycling”, she says.

“We’d like to encourage people to not only think about recycling, but responsible consumerism as well. Support the manufacturers who are sponsoring recycling programs [like TechCollect] and have strong corporate social responsibility.”

TechCollect was developed to support the Federal Government’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS), established in 2011 in response to the Product Stewardship Act. The Act became an effective regulatory tool for holding government and industry accountable for e-waste disposal, increasing recycling rates and reducing the environmental impact of e-waste.

Electronic devices contain several hundred materials, many being highly toxic. Today’s electronics contain cadmium, arsenic and brominated flame retardants, among other pollutants. Older televisions contain high levels of lead. Modern flat screen televisions contain significant amounts of mercury.

TechCollect aims to stop this toxic material from entering landfills or, even worse, incinerators. This is a huge win for the environment, human health and welfare, and even third world countries, where recycling workers are exposed to toxic materials with minimal safety standards.

Australians are some of the highest users of technology and electronic goods, and e-waste is increasing at over three times the speed of domestic waste.

Around 69 per cent of unused computers in Australia are being held in storage and only 1.5 per cent have been recycled. Australians purchase nearly one million new televisions each year and send 1.5 million to landfill. Seventeen million televisions sat in landfill in 2008.

Computers and televisions are the main source of e-waste, and both can be recycled through the TechCollect program.

Recycling isn’t the only option. We can reduce our consumption of electronics and refrain from unnecessary purchases, share items with friends, family and neighbours, and repair and reuse items – our inability to repair things and the ease of replacing them means a lot of perfectly good items end up as waste!

“Reuse is a better outcome on the recycling hierarchy, but if you can’t reuse it then it needs to be recycled. It’s important you don’t stockpile things in the drawer or garage. You must take an active step to ensure electronics are responsibly recycled”, Ms Dollisson says.

Recycling our e-waste has the potential to transform industry and guide us to a more sustainable and equitable economy and society. Safe, environmentally responsible, and without charge to the consumer, TechCollect is recycling at its best.

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