Rumbalara Environmental Education Centre

Telephone02 4324 7200


Computers (E-Waste)

Many recycled computers are dumped in the developing world, where thousands of labourers burn, smash and pick apart electronic waste to scavenge for the precious metals inside — unwittingly exposing themselves and their surroundings to dangerous toxins. Read more at the USA Today website.

Lead, mercury, cadmium, and polybrominated flame retardants (all found in computers) can create environmental and health risks when computers are manufactured, incinerated, landfilled, or melted down during recycling. 6 Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (PBTs) are particularly dangerous class of chemicals that linger in the environment and accumulate in living tissue. Because they increase in concentration as they move up the food chain, PBTs can reach dangerous levels in living creatures -- even when released in minute quantities. PBTs are harmful to human health and the environment, and have been associated with cancer, nerve damage, reproductive disorders, and other serious health problems. Some possible examples of toxic components in devices are:

  • the Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) in most computer monitors and television screens have x-ray shields that contain 4 to 8 pounds of lead, mostly embedded in glass.
  • a PC's Central Processing Unit (CPU) - the module containing the chip and the disk drive - typically contains toxic heavy metals such as mercury (in switches), lead (in solder on circuit boards), and cadmium (in batteries).
  • plastics used to house computer equipment and cover wire cables often contain polybrominated flame retardants. Studies indicate that ingesting these substances may increase the risk of cancer, liver damage, and immune system dysfunction.

Australia is years behind Europe, Asia and several US states in taking responsibility for the management of computer waste. Some overseas governments have been developing and implementing policies that make producers responsible for products at the end of their working life since 1991. Read more at the Choice website.

What can we do?

  • Tarana Industries at Gosford will collect and recycle all e-waste for free. Contact Rick Fealy on Tel: 0417670743 or Email: Fealy@Tarana
  • most councils organise a free e-waste collection day for households and are usually happy for schools to drop off small amounts.
  • Thiess offers to recycle for businesses at fixed rates. 

Recyclable Items by Thiess Include:

  • computers
  • photocopiers
  • monitors
  • printers
  • televisions
  • VCR’s
  • typewriters
  • CD players.

  • refurbish or upgrade existing computer equipment, refurbishing an existing computer delays its entrance into the waste stream. By extending your computer's useful life, you can save money by reducing disposal costs and deferring the need to buy new equipment. Computer refurbishes may add memory and other accessories to upgrade existing systems, while also fixing and replacing broken parts. Purchase used or refurbished computer equipment for project-specific tasks, for example, ones that don't require high memory use (Microsoft word tasks). Most local charities (such as Salvo's, St Vinnies) are happy to take old computers. Look these up in the phone book.
  • e-waste: under the Lenovo take-back agreement with DET, for each new computer the school receives it is entitled to return one used computer of any age or brand. There may be some handling involved and a small cost ($20) if you want Lenovo to pack the old computers. With computers becoming cheaper and more disposable we can't ignore the fact that disposal of toxic and nondegradeable e-waste to landfill is simply creating a problem for future generations i.e. our students.
  • dell offers two solutions for used computer equipment: value recovery - any value gained from the recycling of used equipment through this program will be returned to you, based on the terms and conditions of the rebate voucher.
  • recycling: used equipment that has no resale value will be recycled in an environmentally responsible method. Dell recycling provides you with an efficient, easy-to-use and affordable service. Equipment will be refurbished or recycled in Australia utilising Australian-designed CRT recycling facilities, removing the hazardous components from monitors and preventing their illegal export.

How does it work?

  • contact the toll-free recycling line on Tel: 1800 465 890 (Australia) or Tel: 0800 440 603 (New Zealand), or
  • Dell recycling will arrange for pick-up of equipment and provide you with a cost for recycling or estimated value of a cash rebate voucher. there is a $10 pick-up fee, plus $13 for each unit in metro areas or $15.50 if more than 40km from your capital city. A PC with a monitor is 2 units and volume discounts apply.
  • for re-usable product received that still has a market value, you will receive a cash rebate voucher to be redeemed for cash against any Dell products purchased up to 90 days before the date of the voucher or 180 days after.