Between computers, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic goods, every household generates eWaste. In fact there is approximately 140,000 tonnes of it being generated annually in Australia, much of which contains toxic materials that can easily contaminate our environment.
With only an estimated 4% of these items ending up in recycling, learning how to properly recycle electronics and dispose of e-waste is critical. But what about actually reducing the amount of it to begin with?
Let’s take a look at some simple ways you can cut down on the amount of eWaste generated by your household.
1. Consider used products
If all you’re going to be doing with that laptop is checking emails and using Word, do you really the need the fanciest, newest, whizz-bang Mac?
If your thirteen year old is getting their first mobile phone (which you know they’re going to drop in water at some point anyway), why go through all the heartache of handing them a brand new device?
Save yourself some cash and help the planet out in the process, and get yourself a refurbished device from a re-seller. Most store-bought refurbished products come with a three month statutory warranty, so it certainly can’t hurt to give it a crack.
Shop around, and check out business reviews too, if you’re feeling unsure.
2. Repair rather than replace
With the abundance of brand new gadgets forever at our fingertips, the temptation to just replace an e-product that isn’t operating at full throttle can be pretty strong. But if you find yourself a repairer who knows what they’re about, you could potentially hang onto your device for years longer.
Don’t let the profusion of shiny new things make you overly casual about disposing of a product that just needs a little help to be perfectly functional.
3. Sell, Sell, Sell!
Everyone these days has a Gumtree or eBay account, or is part of a local Facebook swap and sell group. And it’s a rare item that won’t find a buyer, if the price is right.
Do a search on the product you’re selling to see what’s available in your area and what people are charging for theirs.
Pop yours in the average price range, take lots of cool pics, write a fun and coherent blurb, and your unwanted tablet will soon have a loving new home. Garage sales are also a winner.
4. Take care of your electronics
This seems like an obvious point, but it’s amazing how quickly we forget that we’re basically carrying around a thousand dollar mini-computer in our pockets and bags.
Invest in a shock and waterproof case for your phone. Keep your (and everyone else’s) food and drinks away from household electronics. Transport them carefully. Keep them dust free, turn them off regularly, don’t overcharge them and always handle them gently.
A little TLC can go a long way to extending the life of your device.
5. Get tough with your spending
Taking the time to make a well thought-out household budget that includes electronic upgrades and replacements is a really good way to control how much you spend on gadgets in any given year.
When the upgrade to your current (working) product comes out halfway through a budget and you haven’t allowed for it, it might just provide a little check for you before you race out the door, wallet in hand.
The question to ask yourself every time is: What else could I be spending this money on? I guarantee you’ll be able to find plenty of things that are higher on the priority list.
6. Get charitable
If selling hasn’t panned out for you, or you just can’t be bothered going through the process, finding a local charity or social enterprise that accepts second hand electronic devices is a good way to go. Domestic violence shelters, environmental causes and other social programs often gratefully accept older but still-working products.
Don’t forget family and friends. Do your Facebook friends know someone who’s just dropped their phone into the loo and needs an urgent replacement? Asking around your circle can be an easy way to donate unwanted items.
7. Combine your requirements
Sometimes you just need to get realistic. If you have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop and a desktop computer, chances are you probably do not need one to two of those items.
With all the non-stop pressure to consume more and have the latest, shiniest versions of everything, you’re certainly not alone in owning an excess of technology. What helps is taking a long hard look – not at what you want, but at what you actually use.
Are all the functions you use on the tablet also fine to be used on your phone? Is the desktop computer gathering dust because you barely switch it on anymore? What about the TV in the play room you keep replacing, even though the kids don’t care what brand or how new it is?
Thinking critically about what you actually need rather than just reaching for what you want will help you to make decent inroads into reducing your household e-waste.