Thursday is Waste Not, Want Not Day. Designed to encourage businesses to recycle their unwanted electronic waste, it’s the second annual initiative run by TechCollect, a free not-for-profit national e-waste recycling service. It’s a good a reminder as any for organisations to think once again about where their electronics head once they’re out-of-date or broken.
I have a secret shame. At home, in my top desk drawer, are four old mobile phones. Their screens are smashed, their buttons faded and one of them is so ancient that if I wanted to charge it again, I would require the services of a millstone and a sturdy donkey. I’m not a collector, I just know you’re not supposed to throw such things into the garbage and there never seemed to be a convenient way to recycle my electronic waste (e-waste). Maybe your workplace is in the same boat.
According to a Clean Up Australia fact sheet e-waste being sent to landfill at three times the rate of general waste and is responsible for 70 per cent of the toxic chemicals found there. Also, throwing away electronics is inherently more wasteful because they contain precious metals. For instance, the amount of gold recovered from a tonne of electronic scrap from personal computers is more than you get from 17 tonnes of gold ore.
“It’s crucial for recycling to be viewed as a civic duty for all of us, but it’s also important for businesses to try and take some of the weight off consumers’ shoulders, as it often falls unfairly on individuals to do the right thing,” says Carmel Dollisson, CEO of TechCollect. “For many businesses the biggest barrier is knowing that it’s viable. Most people don’t realise you can pretty much recycle any e-waste.”
The message that going green can benefit an organisation’s bottom line must be getting through because Planet Ark found that Australian workplaces are generally good at some forms of recycling, 72 per cent appropriately dispose of their paper, for example. Not that businesses are diligent across the board. Only 46 per cent recycle printer cartridges and, worse yet, only 25 per cent recycle mobile phones. However, since Planet Ark also found that 82 per cent of employees want to see more e-waste recycling in their workplaces, this shouldn’t be a difficult problem to turn around.
How to action e-waste recycling in your workplace
- Understand your waste – take a waste audit and set targets.
- Set up your recycling system – review existing practises, learn your options for waste contractors, figure out best bin design and placement, develop a sustainability policy and implement it.
- Engage your staff – get workers involved early, consider organising a ‘green team’, and maintain communication through regular meetings, notice boards and newsletters.
- Maintain your system – keep up monitoring and make regular reports.
Some things to keep in mind that are more specific to e-waste are:
- It’s good practice to have an e-waste bin next to your paper and plastic recycling bins, it will make appropriate disposal part of every employee’s weekly routine.
- Make sure all your organisation’s data is deleted before sending it to recycling.
- Finding out where you can recycle is easy using recyclingnearyou.com.au.
- It’s not a bad idea to see if the company that makes the product you want to dispose of will take it back. Some retail companies, such as Apple, have an easy-to-use recycling program.
- Alternatively, there are organisations that give you the opportunity to donate out-of-date phones to worthy causes.
- Carmel Dollisson notes that TechCollect has drop-off sites in every state and territory but for businesses that have a substantial amount of e-waste, the organisation can be called directly to organise a pickup.