Long before you have to dispose of any e-waste, you can reduce your e-waste footprint by:
- Using the Energy Star ratings and choosing, where possible, products with the lowest energy use.
- Purchasing products as a long-term investment - once every three to five years rather than yearly.
- Donating your old PC or electronic equipment that's still in good condition to a charity or community group, if you decide to upgrade
- Taking your old equipment to a local computer store. Some buy old/broken gear for spare parts, or may be able to recommend a recycling service.
Some of the main ways you can safely dispose of your e-waste and encourage the use of recycled materials in computer manufacturing is via:
National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme
The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) lets homes and small businesses dispose of their computers, TVs and computer components (keyboards, monitors, mice, etc) at drop-off points in each state and territory, free of charge. The program has been implemented in all states and territories, except the Northern Territory, and is scheduled to be fully rolled out by the end of 2013. For a full list of drop-off points and opening times go to the NTCRS website or Dropzone, which also lists products that can be recycled.
TechCollect is a similar program that was set up by Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform in 2011, which is backed by technology importers and manufacturers. It was approved by the federal government when the NTCRS was introduced and continues to work in conjunction with local councils to provide recycling solutions.
If your state or territory hasn't rolled out the scheme, they are likely to have an environmental department that's responsible for recycling e-waste in conjunction with local councils. While many popular state-based programs, such as Byteback in Victoria, ceased operations once the federal scheme was rolled out, some companies and not-for-profit organisations offer recycling services. See our list of refurbishers and recyclers for more information.
Some organisations refurbish computers and offer them to not-for-profit groups, or accept computers for disposal. For example, Planet Ark and Sensis created the Recycling Near You website that lets you search by area or product to find a local recycling centre. Business and government services in your area may also host Planet Ark drop-off bins for printer cartridges. ComputerBank New England is one example of a community-based recycling scheme, with branches in Armidale, Inverell and Uralla. It is a voluntary organisation that recycles old computer equipment and sells small amounts of recovered material to fund running costs. You should also search online or contact your local council for information on community recycling programs, as some services may not be listed on Recycling Near You.
MobileMuster is a free, industry-backed service that recycles mobile phones, smartphones, phone batteries and accessories. The program operates across Australia at many major retailers and businesses. The website helps you locate your nearest drop-off point, and explains how you can post your old phone, if you can’t make it to one of the locations.
There are no government- or industry-backed recycling schemes for tablet computers, but many manufacturers offer take-back programs - for more see Manufacturer programs, below.
Many computer manufacturers have recycling or take-back schemes in place, but only accept products from their own range. Some require you to deposit your gear at an authorised centre, while others cover the cost of postage or collection from your home. The number of manufacturers that accept products from other brands is increasing, but authorised resellers are not required to honour take-back schemes on the manufacturer's behalf. When you buy a computer, mobile phone or tablet, ask the salesperson if the manufacturer has a take-back or recycling program.
For example, Apple offers a versatile recycling program that accepts products (including computers, phones, tablets and portable music players from any manufacturer) subject to certain conditions. It offers a handful of additional incentives such as free recycling when you purchase a new Apple computer or 10 per cent off the cost of a new iPod if you deposit your old one at an Apple store. Phones and iPods won’t incur a recycling charge, and Apple even covers postage costs if you can’t make it to a store. Other companies offer similar incentives, which you can read about in our list of manufacturer programs below. Some operate independently, while others are run in conjunction with the NTCRS or MobileMuster.