Technology becomes obsolete very quickly these days. With many PCs on a three-year refresh cycle and people often upgrading their smartphone annually, millions of devices are piled up in garages every year and millions more are dumped in landfills.
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a growing global problem because of the many toxic and non-biodegradable materials that it contains. The good news is that some of those materials are actually valuable, such as rare earths and precious metals. The amount of gold recovered from one tonne of electronic scrap from PCs is more than that recovered from 17 tonnes of gold ore.
So what are the best options for your old technology?
Do you definitely need to retire your hardware? Many older devices can still be useful, either for file storage, or as a backup if you lose your device. Even an old TV may be useful for the spare bedroom or a holiday home. Perhaps you know a family in need? There are many families that would benefit from an additional PC to help kids with their homework. Your older generation mobile/tablet/gaming device could also be very welcome to families.
There are many private companies recycling e-waste, as well as government recycling schemes. Australia’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme accepts old electronics from homes and small businesses at no charge. There’s the industry-backed TechCollect, a not-for-profit e-waste recycler that Lenovo is a founding member of. You can be rest assured that TechCollect disposes your old hardware preoperly to the highest environmental standards.
Some hardware vendors offer a free replacement service when buying new computers. Some will even take back older devices and refurbish them for resale. Next time you organise a major upgrade, find out if potential vendors will take your old boxes back. Lenovo offers a range of take back services for you or your business, for more information click here.
A good cause
Plenty of institutions welcome second-hand technology. Older generation tablets can be donated to a children’s hospital, or a seniors centre may appreciate some old PCs for basic web surfing and word processing. Many pre-schools also love donations of old PC's to help introduce young children to technology. You can find organisations that will arrange this for you, such as Technical Aid to the Disabled or Work Ventures Australia. They’ll either find a new home for your old equipment or auction it for charity.
There are many artists who use old electronics for raw materials and upcycling, whether making jewellery from colourful resistors, pieces of art or circuit board cufflinks. You can even make money selling your own creations on online handicraft markets like Etsy.
With the recent transition from CRT monitors and televisions to flat screens, there’s been something of an e-waste tsunami in recent years. Older TV's have more than two kilograms of lead and account for the largest source of lead in the waste stream, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. So if you can’t find another use for them, do the right thing and have them properly disposed of.
Check the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme or TechCollect websites for a list of locations around Australia where you can recycle your e-waste.
1) Electronics TakeBack Coalition (2010) Facts and Figures on E‐Waste and Recycling p6
2) ABS (2013) Electronic and electrical waste