Computers revived at tip

Kathy McFarlane is seeing more e-waste at the Bonnick Rd tip as increasing numbers of people want to recycle rather than dump it as landfill.
Kathy McFarlane is seeing more e-waste at the Bonnick Rd tip as increasing numbers of people want to recycle rather than dump it as landfill. Renee Pilcher

EVER thought of going to the tip for your next computer?

Don't laugh, some people do, and quite often they are the ones laughing - all the way to the bank.

Kathy McFarlane, recycle shop worker at the Bonnick Rd Waste Management Facility, sees imagination at work every day as people fossick for bits and pieces they can re-use in various ways - not necessarily the original use.

Imagination and recycling go hand in hand it seems.

One example is at this time of year old grass catchers are in hot demand for hen's laying nests.

"People are getting better at recycling," Kathy said.

And they are getting better at giving landfill-bound obsolete electronic goods a second chance by dropping them off at the recycle shop.

Kathy has seen the amount of electronic products thrown out at the Gympie dump increase dramatically.

Globally the trend is alarming. One figure put electronic waste, or e-waste, as making up about 5% of all municipal solid waste worldwide.

It is nearly the same amount as all plastic packaging - only more hazardous because of the toxic materials they contain.

"This year we are seeing a lot more people call in and ask if we want their (e-waste)," she said.

"A lot is dropped off when offices are updated. People now know to bring their old (electronic) equipment in here."

Computers get a second chance, Kathy said.

They are checked over and if working, they go straight onto the shelf for resale.

Those no longer in working order are stripped for parts.

"People love coming here and really want to do the right thing," she said.

Recycler Rob Buckley often drops in for a quick look around the shop.

"I like the idea of recycling," he said. "And maybe picking up a bargain."

According to the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, 15.7 million computers reached their end-of-life in Australia in 2007-08, of this 15.7 million, only 1.5 million were recycled - less than 10%.

E-waste facts

  • Australians buy more than four million computers and three million televisions annually.
  • Nearly 90% of these goods end up in landfill where their components can leach toxins into groundwater and soil.
  • In Australia, e-waste is growing at three times the rate of general waste.
  • Computers, televisions, radios, mobile phones, digital music players and microwave ovens are just a few of the dozens of appliances that Australians use and discard on a daily basis.
  • Less than 1% of televisions and about 10% PCs and laptops are recycled Australia-wide.

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