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Recycling Basics

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What typically happens to products at end-of-life?

Interested in how we manage the processing and recycling of e-waste and other products and materials? You’ve come to the right place. Learn about the recycling process for: consumer electronics, mobile phones, computers and IT accessories, handheld batteries, fluorescent tubes, lamps and globes, printer cartridges, paint and gas bottles.


Consumer electronics

E-waste such as televisions, computers, printers, fax machines and DVD players etc, is typically recycled using a mechanical or chemical shredding process. The products are broken down into different material streams including: glass, plastics, metals, cables, packaging, batteries etc. From here, the different material streams are reprocessed and re-utilised in the manufacture of new components and products.

One of the most informative sources of information about e-waste recycling in Australia can be found on the Zero Waste SA website.

E-waste has a typical recovery rate of 95% depending on the specific product type.


Mobile phones

Mobile phones are sent to a specialist recycling facility here in Australia where they are dismantled and sorted into batteries, printed circuit boards, handsets, chargers/accessories, and packaging.

These components are then sent (typically overseas) to specialized facilities for processing into their recoverable product streams. Batteries are sorted by chemical type and processed for precious metals. Lithium ion and nickel metal hydride batteries are processed for cobalt, lithium, and nickel. Nickel cadmium batteries are processed for nickel cadmium and copper. Circuit boards are processed for metals including copper, gold, silver and lead. Accessories are shredded and separated into ferrous and non-ferrous metals for re-use. Casings are processed here in Australia, where the plastics are shredded and remanufactured into plastic fencing. The packaging is separated into paper and plastic and processed by local recyclers. The main materials that are extracted from mobile phones include: gold, copper, lithium, cobalt and plastics.

For some excellent information about the specifics of mobile phone recycling, visit the MobileMuster website.

Mobile phones have a typical recovery rate of 98%.


Computers and IT accessories

Computers are sent to a recycling facility in Australia where they go through a complex mechanical or hydrometallurgical process that works to dismantle the computer. Once the computers are dismantled, the materials are then sorted into product streams including metals, glass, plastic, cabling, circuit boards and packaging. These product streams are processed (typically overseas) so that the raw materials can be used to produce new products. Plastic is recycled into pellets that are used to make products such as a plastic parts that can be used in another electronic, automotive and appliance product.

One of the most informative sources of information about computer recycling in Australia can be found on the Zero Waste SA website.

Computers have a typical recovery rate of 95%.


Paint

Water based paints are sent to a local processing plant in New South Wales to be consolidated and loaded into 1,000 litre independent bulk containers (IBC). The full IBC is then sent to Queensland for composting.

Solvent based paints, paint thinners, resins and adhesives are also sent to a local processing plant in NSW where they are consolidated and loaded in to 1,000 litre independent bulk containers (IBC). The full IBC is then sent to Victoria to be processed where it is then used as an alternate fuel source for a concreting kiln (coal is the usual energy source).

Paint has a typical recovery rate of 98%.


Batteries

Batteries are sent to a specialist local recycler for unpacking & sorting. They are then aggregated by chemical type for recycling. Depending on the type of battery, they are either sent overseas for recycling, under strict standards and guidelines for processing or processed here in Australia for recycling. Rechargeable batteries are typically processed here in Australia.

Once at their respective recycling facilities, the batteries are broken down to be separated into different product streams. Paper and plastic is recycled and returned to market for reuse. The metals obtained from recycling ie: chromium, manganese, nickel, iron, zinc & cadmium are also recovered and returned to market to be reused into new products. The nickel recovered can be remanufactured into stainless steal and the cadmium remanufactured to make new batteries.

One of the most informative sources of information about battery recycling in Australia can be found on the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative website

The recovery rate for batteries is significantly determined by battery chemistry and the types of batteries collected and recycled.


Gas bottles

Recycling gas bottles requires a high quality of care to collect and dispose of, while preventing the risk of any hazards. Propane, carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen cylinders are consolidated and segregated from any dangerous good that may react with them. They are then loaded into ISO tanks (pressurized shipping grade containers) where the bottles are de-gassed. The empty bottles are then sent to a metal recycling facility in New South Wales and the extracted gas is re-used where possible. Gas cylinders containing unknown gases are sent to a local processing facility in New South Wales, where they are destroyed.

Gas bottles have a typical recovery rate of 98%.


Fluorescent tubes, lamps and globes

Globes & tubes are sent to a “state of the art” recycling facility in New South Wales to be broken down and sorted into individual products. The product streams recovered in the globes & tubes are: aluminium, glass, phosphor powder, and mercury. These recovered products are returned to market and reused in the manufacturing of new products including aluminium cans, insulation and fertiliser.

A very useful source of information covering fluoro tube and globe recycling is the FluoroCycle website.

The recovery rate for tubes, globes and lamps is significantly determined by the specific type of product, however rates of 90% are typically achieved for some lighting products.


Printer cartridges and imaging consumables

Printer cartridges are sent to a local recycling facility in Victoria. This facility is at the forefront of developing technologies for recycling printer cartridges. Their technology shreds the cartridges into four streams including toner powder, metals, inks and plastics. The metals recovered are returned to market and manufactured into new products. Some of the plastics recovered are used to manufacture new cartridges. Ink that is recovered is refined and re-used for the ink in other products such as pens.

Imaging consumables can have a typical recovery rate of well over 90% depending on the specific type of cartridge, bottle or component.


More information

If you have any queries about the recycling processes described above or require additional information, please contact the ECOACTIV team at:  info@ecoactiv.com.au

More information about our pre-paid recycling solutions for handheld batteries, fluoro tubes and globes can be found at the ECOACTIV Shop.