It’s a running joke that computers are obsolete almost as soon as you buy them, but when you think about what happens when they get thrown away, it’s not very funny.
A report for the government in 2011 found that the number of home and business computers thrown away every year has been rapidly increasing. In 2008, there were already 37 million Australian computers in or on their way to landfill. In 2010 the number of computers thrown away topped 3.5 million, an annual figure that is predicted to rise to over 9 million by 2030.
In 1997, the life span of a computer was 4-6 years; In 2007 it was just 2 years and falling – and in that year alone a staggering 271 million new computers were sold worldwide. When you think that 3 million computers are sold every year in Australia, it’s obvious that we all have to make the effort to recycle our old computers.
Computers are made up of metals, plastics, printed circuit boards and glass. Some of the metals they contain – mercury, selenium, cadmium, cobalt – are highly toxic, and when the computer is broken up and begins to degrade in landfill sites, these toxins can seep into the soil and leach into groundwater. They can get into our drinking water, and into the food chain.
Under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, you can help solve the e-waste problem.
Bring your old computer and all its bits and pieces to EPSA, and through Sims Recycling Solutions we will turn it safely and efficiently back into raw materials that can be used again.
Of all modern technologies, computers contribute more to our e-waste problem than anything else, yet they are over 98% recyclable. As well as plastics and glass, they also contain valuable commodities such as copper, aluminium, steel, iron, gold, platinum and silver. All these can be returned to the manufacturing process, and this in turn helps reduce the environmental impact of mining and manufacturing new materials.
And you can do your part, because every little bit helps. Those millions of tonnes of e-waste generated every year are made up of individual monitors, CPUs, hard drives and USB sticks like the ones you’re using now. The easy option might be to dump your old computer by the side of the road for council clean up or to drop that dead hard drive in the bin, but it’s a missed opportunity to do your bit to return those few kilos of raw materials into the manufacturing chain and stop more toxins going into our environment. Allowing computers to be buried is not a serious option.
Sources: Meta Economics (2011) National Television and Computer Product Stewardship Scheme: targets, trajectories and implications for scheme design; United Nations Environment Programme (nd) Global Partnership on Waste Management: E-Waste Management; Griffith University E-Waste Research Group (nd) Facts and Figures; Clean Up Australia (2009) E-waste Fact Sheet, Australian Government (2011) National Waste Policy Fact Sheet: Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations 2011.
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