Most people who’ve ever used a smartphone are familiar with their battery draining quickly, or being unable to update software on a handset that’s only a few years old. Hence the convenient release of the new, ‘better than ever’ smartphone model every 18-months, gleaming with features you never knew you needed.
This is planned obsolescence: when tech products are developed with a deliberate lifespan, becoming outdated due to function or style. But the quick cycle of outmoded technology creates catastrophic waste.
According to a United Nations environment report, around 50 million tons of electronic waste will be dumped in 2017, a 20% rise from 2015.
Whether due to in-built obsolescence or a breakdown, people are constantly discarding their smartphones, VCRs, fax machines, DVD players, computers, TVs and other electronics.
What’s the environmental impact?
This poses two environmental problems. The first is the increased mining and procuring of materials needed to produce new technology. TVs and computers, for example, contain valuable non-renewable resources, including gold, steel and copper.
The second issue is the huge quantity of electronic waste going to landfill. Some of these items can be highly toxic – there’s arsenic in cathode ray tubes and mercury in flat screen TVs. These substances can seep into groundwater, contaminating soil and entering our food supplies.
Is Australia part of the problem? Yes, in a big way
Australia is one of the biggest consumers of electronics in the world. That’s 600,000 tonnes of e-waste every year.
88% of the 4 million computers and 3 million TVs bought here every year end up in landfill.
What can I do?
Firstly, try to reduce your consumption and resist the upgrade if you don’t really need it. Secondly, you have many recycling options. Don’t throw your e-waste in the red bin – as this will send it to landfill.
- If your item is broken, try The Bower’s Repair Café, as it might be returned to working order.
- If your item still works but you just don’t want it, OzRecycle, will help you give it away. Ask our Garbage Guru for recycling options for any kind of item.
- If your item is truly done for, drop it off at our e-waste drop-off day on Saturday 17 March at 54 Barwon Park Road, St Peters. See which items we take and what you can do with those we don’t. You don’t have to live in our government area to use this service.
The e-waste we collect at the drop-off day is diverted from landfill and around 95% of raw materials recovered are recycled. While many recycling suppliers send e-waste to developing countries, everything we collect is processed at Villawood by our contractor Sims Recycling Solutions. Components are stripped, broken down into commodities and circulated back into the market.