Push to recycle, not store, old tech items

Christine McGinn

Victoria's sustainability watchdog wants people to stop hoarding old electronics and recycle them, with the nation's e-waste collection expected to almost double over the next decade.

Melbourne mum Suzanne La Fontaine, 42, said her family of five has more unused devices than people in their home.

"We accumulate an enormous amount of e-waste. I wouldn't have ever thought of us as hoarders but I think we probably have at least four old mobiles between us and two old tablets and laptops," the mother-of-three boys said.

"It's not the type of stuff you think you should throw in the bin so you end up holding on to it thinking you'll do something with it later. I never really considered all the potentially recyclable materials inside these things."

It's a mindset Sustainability Victoria chief executive Stan Krpan wants to change.

"Australians typically replace their phones every two to three years and we estimate the majority of households could admit to hoarding at least a few e-waste items. This is a habit we need to get out of," he said.

E-waste is the world's fastest-growing category of waste, Mr Krpan added.

"While storing up e-waste at home technically saves it from ending up in landfill, this hoarding behaviour stops these valuable materials re-entering the system and being reused."

Almost 50 per cent of Aussies store old devices rather than recycling them for copper, silver and gold components, a 2016 Deloitte study revealed.

More than one million mobile phones and 16 million TVs are thrown away in Australia every year, according to a 2015 Victorian environment department report.

Computers and TVs e-waste is expected to rise from about 138,000 tonnes in 2012-13 to 223,000 tonnes in 2023-24, the government report found.

The Victorian government is investing $16.5 million in upgrading more than 130 e-waste collection sites across the state.