Used electronic equipment contains non-renewable resources such as plastic and precious metals including gold, silver, platinum, nickel, zinc, aluminium and copper. Some can be toxic to the environment if placed in landfill, like lead, mercury, phosphorus and cadmium. These substances can leak into groundwater, contaminate the soil, and enter the food chain. when electronic items are sent to landfill, the valuable resources that were used to make those products are lost forever. This means that new electronic items will continue to require mining for the non-renewable resources they contain.
Almost 99% of the components that make up a computer can be recycled. The metal is 100% recyclable, glass 99% recyclable, and plastic (apart from very small particles) 100% recyclable. Older style televisions, containing cathode ray tubes, contain up to 4 kg of lead and other materials that can be hazardous to the environment if not recycled responsibly.
More than 90% of the components found in a mobile phone can be recycled, but there are around 22 million o f them stored unused in cupboards and drawers around Australia. If they were all recycled, the greenhouse benefits created would be equal to planting 114,000 trees and the aluminium recovered would be enough to make 1.8 million cans.
Recycling can also offer cost savings through the avoidance of landfill fees for heavy items such as white goods, and reduced energy bills through the removal of old, inefficient appliances.