How to dispose of or recycle batteries and e-waste

Do you have a small pile of old phones, maybe an old laptop? Not quite sure what to do with them? Here are a few ideas.

Progress Your Home
5 min read
Recycling tech devices is easy, and it’s not just better from the environment – it can also help charities raise extra cash.

E-waste is the fastest-growing category of rubbish in the world with the UN describing it as a “tsunami”. Australia produces some 700,000 tonnes of e-waste every year, of which only a small fraction is recycled or disposed of responsibly. So how can we do better?

Here are some of the ways you can extend the life of your devices and keep your tech waste – including smartphones, tablets, computers and batteries – out of the landfill.

1. Don’t ditch it – donate your e-waste

When was the last time you upgraded your smartphone or replaced your tablet or laptop? If the old ones are still working well, why not pass them on? Maybe you know a parent who is looking for a first device for their child or you have an elderly neighbour who could use a back-up phone for emergencies. Pop a post up on Facebook and chances are someone will put their hand up. If you don’t find a taker, try your luck selling it on Gumtree or eBay.

2. Recycle it, don’t rubbish it

There are an estimated 23 million unused mobile phones in Australia alone. While not quite worth their weight in gold, each one contains enough plastics and precious metals to make it worth recycling – even with a smashed screen or dead battery. Phones, computers, game consoles and batteries contribute not only to that “tsunami” of waste in landfill but to the toxic pollution of soil and waterways.

Recycling tech devices is easy with the many recycling programs, drop-off points, collection services around now and charities using recycled phones and other technologies to raise money. Here are just a few examples:

  • Mobile Muster is an industry-backed service that recycles phones, accessories and batteries.
  • Drop Zone is a government-approved recycling program for computers, TVs, printers and computer accessories.
  • Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You offers recycling drop-off points for all kinds of household electrical appliances and technology.
  • Planet Ark’s Cartridges 4PA gives Aussies a way to dispose of their used printer cartridges, which can be recycled and kept out of landfill.
  • GiveNow lists charitable organisations that will accept donations of mobile phones and other devices.

3. Battery recycling and disposal

The jury is still out on whether single-use batteries – like the standard AA kind you use in many controls and toys – should go in the rubbish. While most are no longer made with nasty heavy metals and are much safer to throw away, there are still better alternatives. Aldi supermarkets, for example, offer a free battery recycling service at all their Aussie stores.

The rechargeable batteries from your phone and computer devices contain lots of nasties like nickel and cadmium and should definitely stay out of your rubbish bin.

Battery World and Suez will take them off your hands for recycling or safe disposal. Or if you’re feeling particularly resourceful you could try creating a recycling point and create something yourself.

Then there are the batteries from Tesla Powerwalls – they’re lithium-ion and maximise the effect of solar power systems by storing solar-generated electricity. They have a pretty decent lifespan (over 10 years), so only need to be replaced occasionally.

But as more people choose this technology we’ll see a bigger demand for effective recycling solutions – a challenge for lithium-based batteries. While Tesla refines its “closed-loop” recycling program, Victorians at least can take advantage of their state’s new lithium battery recycling centre.