The Victorian Government is introducing a ban on electronic items (e-waste) in any bin or landfill from 1 July 2019. There’s a better place for e-waste than your rubbish bin. It is much better going to a participating transfer station where we can recover the precious materials to be reused and capture the nasty bits before they can do harm.
What is e-waste?
E-waste refers to any item with a plug, battery or cord that is no longer working or wanted. It covers a whole range of items from work, home and even the garden shed.
- Coffee machines
- Hair dryers
- Washing machines
- Electric fans
- Air conditioners
IT, telecommunications and TV equipment
- Mobile phones
- Remote controls
- Fluorescent lamps
- Compact fluorescent lamps
Electrical and electronic tools
- Sewing machines
- Lawn mowers
Toys, leisure and sports equipment
- Electric trains and racing cars
- Hand-held video games
- Musical instruments
Where do I take e-waste? How do I dispose of e-waste?
Victorian households can take their e-waste to a number of sites such as participating transfer stations, recycling businesses and electrical stores. Golden Plains Shire residents are encouraged to take their household e-waste to the following transfer stations:
Please note: Fees and a limit of 20 items per visit may apply. To help residents with the Victorian Government’s upcoming e-waste ban, Council is currently waiving the fee at the Rokewood Transfer Station for e-waste items. Council will determine whether a fee will be charged from 1 July as part of the 2019/20 Budget process. Please note that fridge, freezer and air conditioner units will attract a fee of $11 per unit, due to the legislated requirement to have refrigerant recovered by a suitably qualified person.
Geelong Transfer Station - 100 Douro Street, North Geelong
Open daily: 7.30am-4.15pm
Closed Good Friday, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Rokewood Transfer Station – 141 Meadows Road, Rokewood
Open Sunday: 10am-3pm
Closed Total Fire Ban and Code Red Days
Ballarat Transfer Station – 119 Gillies Street South, Alfredton
Open Monday-Friday: 8am-4pm. Weekends and public holidays: 10am-4pm
Closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Anzac Day and Good Friday
Snake Valley Transfer Station – 298 Snake Valley-Mortchup Road, Snake Valley
Open Thursday and Sunday: 10am-4pm
Closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Total Fire Ban Days
Options for businesses
Drop Zone can provide an e-waste bin or battery bucket at your place of business. It will also collect all types of e-waste from large corporations, councils, schools, universities and small and medium enterprise.
TechCollect is fully funded by many of the world’s leading computer and TV manufacturers and importers. It provides businesses a completely free service and are located at many waste transfer stations throughout Victoria.
Green Collect is a social enterprise that transforms office waste into value and provides a range of collection services to businesses.
Fluorocycle, is a voluntary product stewardship scheme that seeks to increase the national recycling rate of waste mercury-containing lamps.
Why recycle e-waste?
E-waste is the world’s fastest growing category of waste. In 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide. Of this enormous figure, only about 20 per cent, or 8.9 million metric tonnes was recycled. The rest ended up in landfill.
Over the coming years, the amount of global e-waste is expected to increase to 52.2 million tonnes in 2021, or around 8% every year.
Locally, the problem is significant, too. Australians are amongst the highest users and disposers of technology. In fact, in Australia the amount of e-waste is growing up to three times faster than general waste.
In Victoria, it is estimated that a total of about 109,000 tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2015. This volume is projected to increase to about 256,000 tonnes by 2035.
While it’s important to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill, there are two other key reasons for recycling e-waste:
- It’s better for the environment
- It contains valuable materials
Most e-waste contains hazardous materials. These can range from heavy metals such as lead, and mercury to ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and flame retardants.
Even in small amounts, these dangerous chemicals can cause environmental contamination. However, when millions of e-waste items are dumped in landfill or stored inappropriately, the situation becomes much more serious.
They can leach dangerous amounts of hazardous substances into our groundwater, soil, and air. As these substances, do not break down easily, the result can be long term environmental pollution.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)
What are the environmental impacts of e-waste?
Most e-waste contains hazardous materials. These can range from heavy metals such as lead, and mercury to ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and flame retardants. Even in small amounts, these dangerous chemicals can cause environmental contamination.
However, when millions of e-waste items are dumped in landfill or stored inappropriately, the situation becomes much more serious.
They can leach dangerous amounts of hazardous substances into our groundwater, soil, and air. As these substances do not break down easily, the result can be long term environmental pollution.
Recycle your e-waste to:
- reduce landfill
- protect the air and waterways from harmful materials
- minimise consumption of raw materials to produce electronic products
- reduce greenhouse gases created in the production of new materials.
What happens to recycled e-waste?
There are numerous useful and/or valuable materials in e-waste which can be recycled such as gold, silver, copper, aluminium, platinum and cobalt which can either be used to produce the next new wave of technological innovation, or simply be recycled elsewhere. Most importantly, they should not be lost to landfill.
The way e-waste is processed can vary between recyclers. In general, mercury, plastics, printed circuit boards, ferrous metals and aluminium are separated from e-waste for recycling.
Where does e-waste go?
You’ve done the right thing and dropped your old technology at an appropriate e-waste recycling facility. What happens to it now?
The answer depends on what the item was and where—or with which organisation—you disposed of it. The way e-waste is recycled can vary, but it generally follows a similar pattern:
Depending on the type of device, some manual disassembly may occur. Batteries and casings are removed from phones, steel casings from around hard-drives, while cartridges and toners are detached from printers. The glass from TVs and monitors (especially older-style cathode-ray tube products) will be carefully separated to avoid the release of any toxic lead or mercury that may be present.
Shredding (size reduction)
After initial disassembly, the remaining items and components are sent to a shredder, which reduces the size of components to between 1cm and 10cm. Data destruction also takes place at this stage.
Sorting of the shredded material is often a manual process, though automated machines are also used.
Several processes are used including:
- magnets to remove ferrous metals (steel, copper)
- eddy currents to separate non-ferrous metals such as aluminium
- infrared beams, lasers or X-rays, and bursts of compressed air to identify various plastics and other metals
- water is used to separate plastics from glass
- any contaminants are treated and removed.
Once all the materials have been sorted into their raw form they can be resold to suppliers to make new products.
While most of our e-waste is dismantled into its various components here in Australia, some materials are sent overseas for final processing. Many batteries are sent to South Korea, while Singapore takes circuit boards and batteries. Other components, such as copper, steel and plastics, are smelted here in Australia.
With correct techniques, up to 90 per cent of e-waste can be recycled.
The goal is to make a closed loop, where a new product isn’t made from raw materials but, instead, from fully recycled components, which in turn are also completely recyclable.
Once all the different components of your e-waste are back in the supply chain, they can be reused to make almost anything. For example:
What else can I do?
Recycling your e-waste is important and necessary. But even better is to try and avoid creating e-waste in the first place.
You can do this by:
- carefully selecting the right product for your needs
- choosing a brand that's environmentally responsible
- only upgrading your tech if there's a real reason to do so
- learning about e-waste and the programs available to manage it
- supporting businesses that are working to solve the e-waste problem.
If you have an item you no longer need, but which still works and is in good condition, consider trying to find a new home for it first. There are many people happy to take quality second-hand goods.
- Offer it to friends or family, or try swapping or giving it away for free via an online recycling site
- Donate it to a charity or Not-For-Profit organisation – but first make sure they’re happy to accept it
- Sell it. There’s a large market for quality second-hand electronics. You’ll make money and be helping reduce the e-waste burden.
What are the key underlying reasons for the growth of e-waste?
The underlying reasons for the global growth in e-waste volumes are a complex mixture of changing patterns of demand and faster turnover from the supply side. Some of these factors include:
- Rapid innovation in both existing and new electronics
- A decrease in built-in lifespan of electronic products
- More affordable electronics which mean products are becoming accessible to more people, which increases the number of items that will ultimately be discarded
- More complex product design which makes repair and recovery more difficult – and more expensive.
Globally, where does most e-waste end up?
The Global E-waste Monitor reported that in 2016 only 20% of the world’s 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste was documented to be collected and properly. This means that the other 80% (35.8 Mt) of e-waste was not documented. What happened to it?
According to the Global E-waste Monitor, the vast majority of it was likely dumped, traded, or recycled under inferior conditions. While it is difficult to know exactly where all this e-waste is dumped, we do know that each year thousands of tonnes is shipped to developing countries in Africa and Asia.
Much of it then ends up in toxic dumps where people use dangerous techniques to try and extract precious metals like gold, silver and copper. The health problems that can result from exposure to these dangerous practices can be life-threatening.
You can learn more about the global environmental and social effects of the dumping of e-waste and the efforts to clean it up by watching the World Economic Forum's video 'E-waste: Cleaning Up The World's Fastest-Growing Trash Problem' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czu3BC7SrFQ)
How do I safely handle batteries?
Used batteries are potentially hazardous, so they need to be stored and handled carefully.
- Keep batteries out of reach of children. Button cells (small round batteries) can be swallowed, causing choking or chemical burns
- Be careful of damaged or leaking batteries. Some of the materials inside batteries are toxic and could result in poisoning
- Keep batteries away from sunlight or heat. This may result in leakage of toxic materials
- Reduce fire risk. Place individual batteries in a plastic bag or sleeve. Tape over the terminals of any lithium-based batteries, such as button cells; phone, camera and laptop batteries; and batteries with both terminals on one side (for example, 9V batteries).
For more information about the safe collection, storage, transport and handling of used handheld batteries refer to the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative guidelines.