An in-depth look at E-Waste Recycling
It is estimated 80% of recyled computers in Australia are dumped into Asian and some European Countries. The US has initially decided the best way to handle such a disgraceful activity is to tightly regulate export of these items.
E-WASTE - Computers / Televisions / Electrical Items
Many recycled computers are dumped in the developing world, where thousands of labourers burn, smash and pick apart electronic waste to scavenge for the precious metals inside - unwittingly exposing themselves and their surroundings to dangerous toxins.
FACT: Lead, mercury, cadmium, and polybrominated flame retardants (all found in computers) can create environmental and health risks when computers are manufactured, incinerated, landfilled, or melted down during recycling.6 PBTs are a particularly dangerous class of chemicals that linger in the environment and accumulate in living tissue. Because they increase in concentration as they move up the food chain, PBTs can reach dangerous levels in living creatures -- even when released in minute quantities. PBTs are harmful to human health and the environment, and have been associated with cancer, nerve damage, reproductive disorders, and other serious health problems.
- The cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in most computer monitors and television screens have x-ray shields that contain 4 to 8 pounds of lead, mostly embedded in glass.
- A PC's central processing unit (CPU) -- the module containing the chip and the disk drive -- typically contains toxic heavy metals such as mercury (in switches), lad (in solder on circuit boards), and cadmium (in batteries).
- Plastics used to house computer equipment and cover wire cables often contain polybrominated flame retardants. Studies indicate that ingesting these substances may increase the risk of cancer, liver damage, and immune system dysfunction.
Smashing of dangerous cathode ray tube in China 2008.
A common day occurrence burning Of toxic E-Waste in China 2008.
FACT: Australia is years behind Europe, Asia and several US states in taking responsibility for the management of computer waste. Some overseas governments have been developing and implementing policies that make producers responsible for products at the end of their working life since 1991. Read more at www.choice.com.au
What Can We Do?
For old computers and electrical goods you can obtain a quote from Planet Green Recycling Centre for a small fee. The company offers secure, environmentally friendly IT destruction. (see info at top of page) Nonfunctioning parts can be broken down further to recover valuable metals (such as silver and gold) and sometimes other scrap materials. Up to 98% of your redundant e-waste equipment can be recycled.
Recyclable Items by Thiess Include:
- CD Players
Refurbish or upgrade existing computer equipment. Refurbishing an existing computer delays its entrance into the waste stream. By extending your computer's useful life, you can save money by reducing disposal costs and deferring the need to buy new equipment. Computer refurbishes may add memory and other accessories to upgrade existing systems, while also fixing and replacing broken parts.
Purchase used or refurbished computer equipment for project-specific tasks e.g. ones that don't require high memory use (Microsoft word tasks)
Environment Minister Peter Garrett has today invited comment on the draft National Waste Policy Framework - Less Waste More Resources.
"We are drawing closer to achieving a new, clearer direction for waste management - moving towards avoiding waste and actively using it as a resource," Mr Garrett said.
"Under the leadership of the Australian Government the state and territory environment ministers will consider the new policy at their next meeting in November.
"Community response to the discussion paper that paved the way for the development of this draft national policy framework has been very encouraging.
"Through a comprehensive submission and consultation process, we now have a strong picture of the key priorities that it needs to address."
Seven themes emerged from the consultations:
- Taking responsibility
- Improving the market
- Pursuing sustainability
- Facilitating investment
- Reducing hazard
- Reporting on performance
- Tailoring solutions
"Receiving public comment on the draft framework is the next key step, and I encourage individuals, community groups, businesses, industry and governments to continue this dialogue on waste and resource recovery issues."
Comments close on Friday 31 July 2009.
Find out more or subscribe to the national waste policy e-news to stay up to date by visiting www.environment.gov.au/wastepolicy.