Sometimes a computer is just not up to scratch. It’s just not usable anymore for the task at hand and a new one is brought in and the old is, well, old.  And so, like many unwanted things in days gone by, the old one was quietly thrown away into the bin.

However, there has been an ‘explosion’ in the Australian industry of Resource and Recycling in the last 10 years, making it possible to better dispose our e-waste. But how easy is it really for the everyday person to have their old electronic gadgetry pass on in an honourable way? Of the 15.7 million computers that would have come to their ‘end of Life’ in 2008, less than 1 in 10 were recycled that year, so what happened to the other 9? Sitting in cupboards (unlikely) or going straight to landfill.

Computer systems partially buried in landfill site. Ghana

Yeah it’s a shame and a sad fact that a lot of recyclable items go to landfill, why should anyone care more about old computers going to landfill? But e-waste is a special case. There is a ‘healthy’ dollop of heavy metals in our TVs and computers: lead, mercury, arsenic, just to name a few. When this goes to landfill it has a very real risk of getting into the surrounding ecosystem, mostly via groundwater. A risk that is all about when, not if. For an extreme example of this just have a look at Guiyu [1]


Acquiring resources from old electronics. Guiyu, China. 
The proximity of e-waste to the local water supply allows pollutants to quickly leach into the surrounding ecosystem, making it necessary to cart water into the area daily for the local populace.


So to change this? Recycle! An old message, yes, and one that has more merit for it’s age.

And the options for this? Well…

  • Getting a private company to collect, which, unless you are a large company with significant numbers of junked computers – they will probably charge for.
  • Taking your e-waste to a Resource Recovery Centre which recently nulled the fees on handing them e-waste.
  • Taking e-waste to other non-for-profit organisations, formed from the get go with the primary focus of getting e-waste to the right place. This includes all the favourites of Planet Ark, TechCollect, and more.
  • Tech giants such as Officeworks and JB HiFi also host drop off points to pass on to to Planet Ark.


TechCollect: Isolating materials from obsolete computers.

Yeah, nowhere near as easy as dropping it in the general waste bin. Easy to see the temptation when people lead busy lives and it can be such a hassle to get these items to a recycling point every time a TV/computer/charger breaks down.

There is also a “so obvious it’s hidden in plain site” theme with most of these above. Corporate, Big, Centralised. While that means they are able to recycle larger amount of raw materials, it means that everything comes together in one location to then be distributed and shipped on from there. The little man gets lost in this, with immediate solutions for locals often taken off the table.

This is where SORT comes in!

While the trend in organisations over the last decade has been to specialise and have keep all operations in one place, SORT has become more and more a part of small communities. By having small groups that are close by, people are able to donate items which go back directly to the local community. For example, giving computers to Computers for Young and Old [2] or Computers for Learning [3]. At worst, everything is sorted (get it?) into materials that are passed on to non for profit organisations that can use them best.

That means that more items are not just able to be recycled, but reused and repurposed.

In the grand scheme of things, the most can be gotten out of every item and with reduced transport by keeping things local, in turn reducing the strain on Mother Earth.


Donated computer ready for refurbishment

So in summary: what are your options for old computers in the end?

  • Take it to a resource centre (Click here to find one near you[4])
  • Get a company to collect (BuyEquip[5](1), Ewaste [5](2), G1[5](3))
  • Take it to a non-for-profit recycler (Planet Ark [6], TechCollect [7])
  • Drop it off to a lcoal community based refurbisher, like SORT! (GiveNow [8])

So, if you would prefer to give your ol’ faithful that has survived all the emails, documents, music and everything in between a chance at further life, say hi to your local SORT team. They can give it not just an honourable end, but a continuing life for someone who desperately needs a computer to become a part of the online community.