Everyday Enviro with Elise: how to tackle that drawer full of electronic waste

Everyday Enviro with Elise: how to tackle that drawer full of electronic waste

By Elise Catterall  November 19th, 2020

The year 2000 called, they want their Nokia 3310 back.


I was one of those people who could never let go of stuff. It wasn’t from any emotional attachment, it was more from a kind of disposal paralysis. I had waste, so much waste, and I just didn’t know what to do with it.

E-waste was the biggest culprit. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I still had my very first mobile phone (from 1997), my first Sony Discman (from 1989) and even a 20-plus-year-old electric toothbrush. On top of that, the contents of my spare room cupboard read like a JB Hi-Fi catalogue: laptops, hard drives, headphones, printers, digital cameras, you get the drift. And none of these had worked for years.

Things were dire; I had to take action. My first stop was the Recycling Near You website. From the resources there, I was able to make an action plan. No more paralysis. I was delighted that I could remove all this stuff from my home, and none of it would go anywhere near landfill, which would be disastrous as lead, mercury, and cadmium can seep into the soil and water. Not to mention a waste of components that could be repurposed.

Australia has one of the highest e-waste rates in the world — over 21kg per person per year. Pretty hefty. And the global rate is on track to double by 2030. So, spurred on by these stats and my newly acquired knowledge on all things e-waste, I took the first step: sorting out what could be reused (passed on), what could be sold, what could be repaired and then, what was left would be recycled.

The first items to leave the house were mobile phones (eight of them!); one was passed on and the rest went to a MobileMuster drop off point. Then we just moved through our pile: the TVs were repaired and passed it on through a local pay-it-forward group (broken televisions can be recycled for free through the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme); the printer went to a family member who could ignore the loud clicking noise it made; several long-dead laptops were destined for recycling and Recycling Near You recommended Hoxton Industries who go to pains to find the best way to recycle each computer and its components, while also ensuring appropriate data removal (AKA sanitisation). 

Everything else was beyond repair, resell or reuse, including the headphones, a couple of remote controls, a hairdryer, a hand blender and that antique electric toothbrush! So they made their way to the e-waste collection event hosted by my local council.

The last things to deal with were my cameras, and this was the highlight for me — I learned that cameras are one item that seem not to have built in obsolescence and that there are dedicated technicians who will repair all manner of cameras. Sydney Camera Repairs are a great example. As the name suggests, they repair cameras, both digital and film, of all ages. There is also a roaring trade in buy/swap/sell groups for cameras of all ages, functioning and not. Also worth mentioning here are the camera sharing sites, like Kitshare or Kyoyu, if you want to upgrade but still put your older camera to use.

It took a little bit of effort, and a little bit of time, but it was worth every bit of it. My home is less cluttered and my conscience is clear.


Positive Actions

Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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