What Is E Waste?

December 14, 2020

If you’ve done some research on how to get rid of old electricals, you’re probably wondering “what is E waste?"

Sydney's leading rubbish removal team, Ridly, are here to provide a breakdown of what E waste actually is, and the importance of E waste recycling.

In a broad sense, E waste is any old, unused or broken electronic appliance that is being discarded, recycled or thrown into a landfill. The most common examples of E waste are computers, printers, mobiles phones, white goods, batteries and all the accessories that come with them.

More specifically, E waste is any electrical and electronic waste that requires an electric current or electromagnetic field for power or to function. When talking about E waste, there are some common appliances or tools that are commonly mistaken for E waste that don’t actually fall into its category.

Power tools that are gas or petrol powered don’t fall into E waste and can’t be disposed of or recycled as such; they function mechanically and although they might have a small number of electronic components, they can’t be recycled or disposed of in the same way as E waste. In saying this, electrical power tools definitely fall into the E waste category and should be thought of as such; it’s just crucial to understand the differences and common mistakes when categorising electronic waste. Fortunately, Ridly – Sydney’s leading team of rubbish removalists, are here to break down the basics on electrical and E waste.

The Importance of E Waste Management

Understanding what is E waste is important for several reasons. The amount of electronic waste we produce as a society is increasing by roughly 10% each year, and the majority of it is thrown away with the rest of our trash that goes into landfill or the environment. In comparison to the majority of this trash, E waste is actually highly recyclable, and 95% of E waste can be recycled. This offers a major opportunity for waste management and waste sustainability; one of the biggest contributors to landfill can actually be recycled and repurposed.

Like a lot of materials thrown into landfill, E waste produces a lot of environmental issues when not recycled and put into landfill. Most commonly and the biggest issues E waste poses to the environment is the number of toxic materials and substances used to create electronic devices which are then released into the environment once these devices become E waste. Some of the common hazardous substances found in E waste include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PVC, solvents, acids and lead. Over time they these toxins leak into the soil and water, which then spreads the toxins in the environment, becoming far-reaching and ongoing environmental problems.

Major E Waste Contributors

If you’re wondering how to dispose of old electronic equipment, it’s vital that you get an understanding of the classification of your device and how it is typically disposed or recycled of. Learning how to safely dispose of your electronic waste is an important step in paving the way for a cleaner, greener future.

Computers, Laptops, Televisions & Mobile Phones

When it comes to what is E waste, there are some obvious contributors. Computer/laptops, televisions and mobile phones are probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think about E waste. Most households have at least one of each of these devices, and almost every person has their own mobile phone; so, you can imagine how much E waste is generated when we no longer want or need these items. However, these items are the most likely to be recycled, or in reality, re-used. Due to the cost of these items, they can typically be sold or donated once we no longer need or want them. Reusing and repurposing electronics is great as it prevents devices from going straight into landfill, but as such, they are still major E waste contributors.

Whitegoods & Appliances

White goods and home appliances fall into a similar category as phones, TVs and computers. Every household has a fridge, washing machine and oven, along with several other common household appliances. They too can easily be repurposed as they are expensive and can be sold or donated to be used again. But once broken, you’ll often see them sitting out on the sidewalk during your local council clean-up to be put into landfill. General white goods are a lot bigger in size and a lot of valuable metals and plastic that can be recycled; however, they need to be broken down to be properly recycled, which can be time and labour consuming.

Batteries & Light Bulbs

Other lesser-known sources of E waste that don’t often get looked at when asking “what is E waste?” are batteries and light bulbs. Both smaller household items are commonly thrown into the regular trash as it’s the most convenient option.

Batteries themselves are one of the biggest contributors to E waste as most of them are single use; they cannot be re-used or repurposed as is, so they just get thrown into the regular trash and end up in landfill. Like most other E waste batteries contain toxic materials like lead, cadmium and mercury that remain in the environment for a long time after leaking into soil and water. Due to the hazardous nature of batteries, they shouldn’t go into your household trash or recycling bin. It is expected that battery waste could reach 100,000 tones by 2036 and the most worrying part, is that 95% of battery components can be recycled.

Unlike batteries, most light bulbs can be put into the regular trash bin; however, not all of them. Fluorescent lamps or tubes contain mercury and only add to the toxins created in landfills. Like batteries, most light bulbs can be recycled, just not in your household recycling bin.

Government & Government Accredited E Waste Schemes

The Australian government is aware of the E waste problem and has started to provide recycling solutions for common E waste products and how to get rid of E waste. These schemes are targeted towards the Australian public and aim to answer the question of how to dispose of old electronic equipment. The Australian Government’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme provide E waste recycling services across metropolitan, regional and remote Australia as part of E waste reduction methods. This industry-funded scheme makes it easier for the public to have their televisions, computers, printers, computer parts and accessories recycled for free.

Local councils also provide their own E waste services. A common way local council aims to reduce E waste is by holding E waste drop-off events. These events happen a few times a year as the normal council clean-up service but are specific for E waste. Instead of having your E waste picked-up you have to drop it off at a council centre where it is then recycled or disposed of safely. Contact your local council to find out how they aim to reduce E waste.

For convenient and fast E waste collection and disposal, you can contact Ridly. Ridly offer same-day removal and safe disposal of electronic goods and all components of E waste. Where we can, we always aim to recycle, reuse and repurpose. You can find out more about our E waste services by getting in touch for a free, no-obligation quote.

How Is E Waste Recycled?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what is E waste and why E waste management is so important, you’ve probably got a couple of questions. When disposing of E waste recycling items, you might be curious to know how these items are actually being recycled. Not all E waste is recycled in the same way or to the same effect; it will depend on the item. As an example, whitegoods are generally broken down by hand, and parts re-used, or materials sold. Other items like computers, televisions and batteries have a more automated process.

How Are Laptops and Computers Recycled?

The majority of a computer or laptop E waste can be recycled. The process is relatively simple, and as follows:

  • Items are sorted, and any batteries or copper is removed
  • Items are then shredded into smaller pieces so the E waste can be properly sorted
  • These pieces are broken down even further to remove dust and dirt
  • Magnetic materials like steel and iron are removed using a magnet
  • Metallic materials like brass, aluminium and the remaining copper are separated from non-metallic material
  • The non-metallic material is then separated; this is mainly made up of plastics and glass.

How Are Monitors and Televisions Recycled?

Monitors and televisions have to be recycled a bit differently because they may contain Cathode ray tubes (CRT) which contains a high amount of lead. Not all TV’s and monitors contain CRT’s today, but due to the lead content, it is still important to recycle televisions properly. The process is relatively similar to recycling laptops and computers:

  • Items are sorted, and any CRT’s are removed
  • Items are then shredded into smaller pieces so the E waste can be properly sorted and remove dust, dirt glass dust
  • Magnetic materials like steel and iron are removed using a magnet 
  • Other metals like aluminium and copper are separated using Eddy currents
  • The remaining glass is cleaned using water jets and separated into glass containing lead and normal glass.

How Are Batteries Recycled?

The recycling of batteries is a lot more scientific due to the chemical composition of batteries and the fact that different batteries have various chemical makeups. A basic run-through of how batteries are recycled is as follows:

  • Recycling starts by sorting the batteries into their chemical makeups like lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion. 
  • Plastics and insulation are then removed in a burning process, and any remaining particles are scrubbed off the metal left behind
  • The metal is then heated, and the metal alloys settle according to density making them easy to separate

Ask Ridly for Help

If you’re still looking for more information on what is E waste and how to get rid of E waste, we recommend heading over to our electronic waste disposal service page for more information on how Ridly can help you dispose of your E waste. Or, you can simply get in touch with our friendly experts and we’ll tell you everything we need to know about E waste recycling.

Ridly’s E waste and rubbish removal services start at $69. Through our flea market activities and our daily approach to re-use or recycle everything, we make sure that your pre-loved items are either responsibly recycled or find a new owner. Committed to sustainability, our E waste services are centred on providing high quality, responsible and transparent services across Sydney.

Need to get someone to pick up your old and unwanted E waste ASAP? Let us safely remove and recycle your E waste so that you can get on with your day. Support affordable and environmentally friendly E waste removal by hiring Ridly. Call us today on 0491 181 130.

Ready to be rid of it? Grab a quick quote from our team.

Call us on 0488 846 336.

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