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The Ultimate Guide to E-Waste

By Adam Ioannidis

E-waste – you’ve probably heard the term before, but you may not know what it means. The good news is, it’s not as complicated as you might think. E-waste is essentially any form of electronic waste (the E standing for electronic) such as computers or mobile phones. Today’s article is going to break down the elements of e-waste for you, so you know all about it the next time you’re looking to sell scrap metal.

The definition of e-waste

Victoria’s sustainability website defines e-waste as “any item with a plug, battery or cord that is no longer working or wanted”. If your six-year-old laptop has finally died, it can be recycled. If your television has stopped working, it can be recycled. Any electronic device that is no longer working or that you no longer have use for counts as e-waste and can be recycled at a scrap metal plant.

Examples of e-waste

  • Computers.
  • Mobile phones.
  • Televisions.
  • DVD players.
  • Gaming consoles.
  • Monitors.
  • Laptops.
  • Electric tools.
  • Toasters.
  • Refrigerators.
  • Hairdryers.
  • Irons
  • Microwaves.
  • Batteries.
  • Lawnmowers.
  • Radios.
  • Musical instruments.
  • Electronic children’s toys (remote-controlled cars for example).

Why is e-waste so recyclable?

As you can see, e-waste really does encompass a broad range of products ranging from everyday household items like dishwashers to niche hobbies like remote-controlled trains. Some of the larger and even more professional items are made almost entirely out of metal. Washing machines for examples – which are also considered to be whitegoods – are generally constructed from zinc-coated steel on the outside whilst the internal area is made from stainless steel. Additionally, the electronic components that go into modern washing machines can also be recycled as the circuitry will have many copper wires.

Power drills feature metal in the internal components as well as the drill bit itself. The actual tool tends to be made from plastic, rubber (for the grip) and metal. No matter what type of product it is – if it has electronics within it then it can be recycled and there’s a fair chance that the electronic components aren’t the only recyclable parts of the product.

The importance of recycling e-waste

E-waste contains hazardous materials such as lead, mercury or flame retardants. Lithium in batteries is the most obvious example of this. When these items are thrown away, they end up in landfill where the heavy metals and hazardous elements can poison the soil and groundwater – leading to a variety of environmental issues.

By selling your e-waste, you’re ensuring that the items are appropriately deconstructed, sorted and recycled whilst also gaining some extra cash on the side. Recycling e-waste also indirectly minimises the environmental impact since there’s less of a need to produce virgin metals for electronic parts – which cuts down on the number of greenhouse gasses released into our atmosphere. Additionally, it will reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill – which is an ongoing issue.

What are the recyclable metals in electronics?

Several different metals are used to power your electronic devices and can thus be harvested and recycled when the time comes. Copper is one of the most popular since its high conductibility and ductility make it perfect for wires. Cobalt is one of the lesser-known metals but is actually a common component used in lithium-ion batteries (specifically the cathode) – which is the type of battery that almost every rechargeable device uses nowadays. Cobalt is also infinitely recyclable – so it can be continuously recycled without losing any of its characteristics or integrity.

Even precious metals such as gold and silver are featured in many electronics – albeit in small quantities due to their price. Other recyclable metals found in electronic components include nickel and aluminium – which are both quite conductive. All these metals are extracted and separated from the heavy metals (such as lithium) before being recycled. It’s worth noting, however, that whilst lead is a highly toxic heavy metal, it is actually completely recyclable.

Are you looking to sell your scrap metal?

If you have electronics you no longer use lying around your house – it doesn’t matter how old they are – then consider bringing them down to Metal Men Recycling, the number one place to sell your scrap metal in Melbourne. We buy a variety of ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Are you a business looking to do a large clean-up of old computers and equipment? We offer a bin drop-off and pick-up service to make the job easier for you.

You can contact us by filling out our online enquiry form or by calling 03 5941 6677.

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