What Is Ewaste? – And What Your Business Should Know!
As a normal business – or any household – you will find you are buying more and more electronic items. What once was paper based – is now almost inevitably becoming electronic and digital. We have even asked in previous blogs – if anyone will need confidential paper bins – if everything is digital. Inevitably – as technology develops ever quicker – much of your old electronics will become obsolete and so we ask today – what is ewaste in the context of your business in 2019 – and what do you need to know?
So what is ewaste – or e-waste exactly?
According to Wikipedia a definition of what is ewaste is – “Electronic waste or e-waste describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. Used electronics which are destined for refurbishment, reuse, resale, salvage recycling through material recovery, or disposal are also considered e-waste.”
The sheer amount of ewaste in existence is growing exponentially – as more countries develop and consumer and business electronics grow year by year.
“An estimated 50 million tons of E-waste are produced each year. The USA discards 30 million computers each year and 100 million phones are disposed of in Europe each year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 15–20% of e-waste is recycled, the rest of these electronics go directly into landfills and incinerators”
News.com.au reports that “In the last decade Aussies have hoarded 11 million phones and the total of unused mobiles now sitting in our homes is more than 25 million — more than Australia’s total population.
“More than 11,000 tonnes of batteries are estimated to end up in landfill every year, but experts say we have a “terrible” approach to recycling here, reusing just 3 per cent.”
The scary thing is that the amount of e-waste we produce is actually forecast to double over the next decade.
Australia’s total ewaste production will increase from around 138,000 tonnes produced in 2012-13 to 223,000 tonnes in 2023-24.
Why is ewaste such a problem?
Let’s be honest – Australia and nearly every country sends huge amount of recyclable materials to landfill every year – or even worse – dumped in the environment.
So why would ewaste be a bigger issue than other types of waste – and why should we put effort into treating it differently?
The major issue is the danger to the environment and human health.
The majority of ewaste is recycled or dumped in Asia or Africa (just like other recycling which has been shipped to China and other countries) – with deadly contamination getting into the soil and causing lead poisoning.
“Residents living around the e-waste recycling sites, even if they do not involve in e-waste recycling activities, can also face the environmental exposure due to the food, water, and environmental contamination caused by e-waste, because they can easily contact to e-waste contaminated air, water, soil, dust, and food sources. In general, there are three main exposure pathways: inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact.”
“Studies show that people living around e-waste recycling sites have a higher daily intake of heavy metals and a more serious body burden. Potential health risks include mental health, impaired cognitive function, and general physical health damage.”
This can be particularly dangerous for babies and pregnant women.
New legislation is being implemented in Australia.
To date – there has been weak legislation and controls over disposing of landfill in Australia. We have only one National Recycling Scheme in place – but only for TVs and computers – which represent just under 10 per cent of our e-waste.
For example – over 11,000 tonnes of batteries alone are estimated to end up in landfill every year.
From 2020 – Victoria will implement a ban on ewaste going to landfill – following South Australia – which implemented a similar scheme in 2013.
The new solution in Victoria will mean you have to take the ewaste to a designated location for recycling. Considerable state funding will will upgrade more than 130 e-waste collection sites around the state. “As a result, 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas will be within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point, Mr Krpan said.”
How can a business recycle it’s ewaste currently?
The best resource online to find out where you can recycle your ewaste is probably the Planet Ark website Business recycling. This website lists where you can locate disposal facilities for all types of electronic waste.
There are a number of free services provided to business such as battery boxes.
If you run a business – that produces larger amounts of ewaste – you could even receive a rebate based on weight – through a specialist recycler – such as MRI in Sydney.