Recycling electronic equipment
We are surrounded by electronic equipment, devices developed and produced to make our lives easier. Today even the simplest of household appliance such as your toaster boasts an electronic circuit board. And as our dependency on personal technology such as laptops, cellphones and printers increases so does the tons of e-waste in our landfills.
What is e-waste and why should it not land in a landfill?
Electronic waste, e-Waste, is the term used for electronic goods that came to the end of their lives, basically anything that runs on batteries or electricity is e-waste.
Examples of e-waste include; batteries, computer equipment, cell-phones, cameras, small and large household appliances ranging from TV’s to toasters.
Why not chuck e-waste in your wheelie to go to the landfill?
Why not chuck e-waste in your wheelie to go to the landfill? The short answer is that electronic equipment is composed of hundreds of different materials some good some bad. The good include valuable material such as gold, silver, copper and platinum, the bad include hazardous toxic material such as lead,CFC’s, mercury and arsenic. Materials that pose a serious health and environmental risk, you do not want these products to go into a landfill and eventually become part of the food chain again
The hazardous substances in e-waste needs to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way and throwing away valuable metal components, like the copper, gold and silver that is found in some electronics, leads to needless mining for new metals.
Unlike many other countries, South Africa currently does not have any dedicated legislation dealing with e-waste. We do however have legislation covering hazardous substances or waste and the management and disposal thereof. The onus thus rests on each one of us to safely dispose of our e-waste.
What to do with e-waste?
Donate, sell or recycle your unwanted electronic goods but keep them out of the waste stream.
Donate: This is a great way to extend your unwanted goods’ live, various charity organizations are in dire need of electronic equipment, phone your favourite and make a difference.
You could also join a free cycle group. It is a nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. So you swap rather than shop. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.
Sell: Give your unwanted electronic equipment a second live by selling it to a second hand dealer, or via the internet.
Recycle: if you want to recycle your electronic equipment there are various ways of doing so;
1. Contact a supplier to come and collect your e-waste from you. This service is unfortunately only available inGauteng and the Western Cape.
2. Drop it off at you local e-waste collection point. Here is a list of drop off points.
3. Take it to your local supermarket, various chain stores (Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Game) offer a free e-waste recycling service. Look out for the bins in-store.
4. Send it back to the supplier. Most major brands offer a take-back service where you can return your unwanted goods to them eg Nokia, Motorola, HP and Apple. Visit the manufacturers’ website to find out about their take-back or recycling policy.
How do the recyclers dispose of e-waste?
Formal recycling happens in different ways in South Africa. Some recyclers dismantle and sort everything manually and others use sophisticated machinery for shredding and even automatic sorting.
Reputable recycling companies will evaluate and test each item, then sort and processes it according to components and material type. Residual data is wiped from items such as old hard drives to ensure your privacy. They will then store and dismantle items in an environmentally safe way. They will also issue you with a “Destruction Certificate” if requested. The e-Waste is sorted in different grades, and sold to reputable scrap metal merchants and recycling plants for further processing.
Also ask the recycling company if they are a member of eWASA (Electronic Waste Association of South Africa). This association makes sure that your equipment is recycled in a sound way and makes sure that the re-usable substances can be recovered.
List of e-waste recyclers in South Africa.
● In 2006 Americans threw away more than 100 million cell phones. Recycling them could have saved enough energy to power approximately 194,000 U.S. households for one year.
● The recycling system is financed through an advanced recycling fee which is charged when you buy a new product.
● 80 percent of the world’s e-waste is transported to Asia, and most of it winds up in China. Workers who disassemble consumer electronics by hand are exposed to toxic substances, which also contaminate groundwater.
● It is estimated that e-waste will double in the next decade.