E-Waste: Definition, Examples, Recycling, Stats, & More

E-waste is a specific type of waste that has received more attention in recent times.

In the guide below, we outline various aspects of e-waste, such as what it is (including a definition), examples of e-waste, it’s potential impact on the environment & humans, how it can be disposed of or recycled, and relevant statistic s on e-waste generation, disposal and recycling.


Summary – E-Waste

What Is E-Waste?

‘E-Waste’ stands for electronic waste – we’ve provided a full definition in the guide below.


Examples Of E-Waste

We’ve provided several examples of e-waste in the guide below.


E-Waste Generation Trends – Is It Growing?

E-waste generation appears to be increasing globally on an annual basis, and also in specific countries.

It may also be one of the fastest growing waste streams in some countries.


How Much E-Waste Currently Gets Recycled?

Various estimates indicate that only around 15% to 20% of all e-waste generated currently gets recycled


How Much E-Waste Could Potentially Get Recycled?

One report indicates that roughly 90% to 95% of all e-waste components might be able to be recycled in total – which is much more than what is currently recycled

Although, whether it’s practical and economically feasible is a different question

Some countries may also have more potential to recycle e-waste than others based on the recycling and recovery facilities and technology they have access to.


Economic Potential Of Recycling E-Waste

Total economic value of e-waste might be in the billions of dollars, whilst the recoverable metal value might be in the hundreds of millions of dollars

Although similar to increasing the recycling rates of e-waste, realizing the full economic value of recoverable materials in e-waste might have practical and economic challenges to consider in the recovery process


How To Dispose Of, Or Recycle E-Waste In Your Area

It differs between different cities and towns.

You can do a search for e-waste disposal or recycling programs in your area (e.g. ‘e-waste recycling/disposal in [insert you suburb or city/town]’), and find instructions on where and how to drop off e-waste to the relevant e-waste management organisation 

An online search in a specific locale can provide details such as:

– E-waste collectors and groups in the area 

– Where drop off or pick up points might be

– Whether programs are free or whether they charge a free. Some programs, initiatives and e-waste collection services are free, whilst others are paid options, or issue a levy when consumers buy electronic products.

– What e-waste can be disposed of at collection points, and how

– Plus other details


Regulations Relating To The Disposal Of E-Waste In Different Countries

Before disposing of e-waste, it’s important to be aware of regulations and laws in a specific locale.

Different countries, States and regions have different legal requirements and regulations about how e-waste should be managed as waste – so, it’s important to check this.

Some countries and States don’t allow the disposal of some e-waste items in municipal waste streams, and instead require them to be disposed of to special e-waste recycling programs or waste management initiatives

Some countries and states have little or no regulations around e-waste disposal, and e-waste can end up in landfill


Improving The Management Of E-Waste

There might be several ways to improve the management of e-waste in the future, and, we list some of these potential options in the guide below.


Potential Impact Of E-Waste On The Environment & Human Health

Different types of e-waste might contain different potentially harmful/hazardous chemicals and metals that can cause damage to the environment (via waste pollution), as well as human health, if not disposed of adequately.

Some e-waste items might be more problematic or hazardous than others, and we list some of these items in the guide below.

Components of e-waste, such as batteries can obviously contain hazardous chemicals and heavy metals too.

We’ve put together separate guides specifically on the potential impact of battery waste, and also battery recycling


What Is E-Waste? (A Definition)

‘E-waste’ is an abbreviation for electronic waste 

It generally includes any electrical/electronic products and items that use electricity, or need a plug or a battery to work.


Examples Of E-Waste

Examples of e-waste can be found across the electronics and technology industries.

Specific examples of e-waste include, but aren’t limited to:

– Entertainment products

Like TV’s, game consoles, music equipment like stereos, and associated accessories (remotes, controllers, etc.)


– Tech products

Laptops and computers, and, associated accessories (mouses, hard drives, etc)

Smartphones, smart watches, and other commonly used tech products


– Home appliances and devices

Microwaves, toasters, vacuums, lights, etc


– Power tools and other electrical tools

Drills, sewing machines, etc.


E-Waste Generation Trends … Is E-Waste Growing? – Statistics

E-waste appears to be growing annually both on a global scale, and in certain countries.

In Australia for example, e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams



The amount of global e-waste is expected to increase by almost 17% … in 2021, or around 8% every year (cleanaway.com.au)



E-Waste is the fastest growing waste stream in Australia (marion.sa.gov.au)


In Australia, e-waste is … the fastest-growing component of the municipal solid waste stream … [where] municipal e-waste is growing up to three times faster than general waste in Australia …. [and] the country’s e-waste will increase more than 60% … by the year 2024 (cleanaway.com.au)


How Much E-Waste Is Currently Recycled?

Various estimates indicate that only around 15% to 20% of all e-waste generated currently gets recycled

Beyond that, the recycling rates of individual e-waste items can vary, and the recycling rates of individual metals used in e-waste items can vary too

Metals might be one of the materials that can be recovered from e-waste at higher rates than they currently are when looking at e-waste recycling statistics


General E-Waste Recycling Rates

Of the … e-waste generated around the world in 2016, only 20 per cent was delivered to appropriate recycling facilities (createdigital.org.au)


Around 10% of the world’s gold and 30% of silver goes into making electronics, but only 15% to 20% … of e-waste created every year [is] recycled (cleanaway.com.au)


… only 20% of e-waste is collected and recycled while the fate of the other 80% is unknown, but very likely dumped, illegally traded or recycled under uncontrolled conditions (cleanaway.com.au)


Recycling Rates Of Individual E-Waste Products & Items

In 2009, US citizens recycled just 25% of their used TVs and computers, while as little as 8% of mobile phones were recycled (bbc.com)


How Much E-Waste Could Potentially Be Recycled

Some reports indicate much more e-waste might be recycled than what is currently being recycled

It might be around 90% to 95% of total e-waste components that could potentially be recycled


From cleanaway.com.au: … when handled correctly, at least 90% to 95% of e-waste components can be recycled, greatly reducing the environmental impact of landfill dumping, sourcing new materials, pollution and contamination.


Economic Potential Of Recycling & Recovering Materials From E-Waste

The economic value of e-waste might be divided into total raw material value, and recoverable metal value

Total economic value of e-waste might be in the billions of dollars, whilst the recoverable metal value might be in the hundreds of millions of dollars


Total Global Economic Value Of Raw Materials In E-Waste

From cleanaway.com.au: Every year, [e waste produced globally contains] up to US$ 65 billion worth of raw materials like gold, silver and platinum.


Recoverable Metal Value In E-Waste

The estimated recoverable metal value from e-waste is about US$370 million, including US$150 million from discarded printed circuit boards alone (cleanaway.com.au)


How & Where To Recycle E-Waste 

The process for recycling e-waste differs between different countries, States and cities.

You can do an online search for ‘How to dispose of/recycle e-waste in [insert city or town name]’

Details such as e-waste collectors and groups, how and where to drop of e-waste, and relevant charges and fees should be available.

Some councils might offer e-waste recycling programs, and some private companies or organisations offer them too.

Some e-waste programs are free, whilst some charge money.


Some information on current recycling programs in some countries or cities are:


United States

… visit the CalRecycle’s Directory of the companies that collect, reuse and recycle electronic wastes in [California] (calrecycle.ca.gov, and dtsc.ca.gov)



[For] small amounts of e-waste, free drop off sites by TechCollect are located around the country (cleanaway.com.au)


From marion.sa.gov.au:

For disposal, you must take it to an e-waste recycler/specified e-waste drop-off locations.

Some recyclers do it free of charge, whilst others charge a fee.


Why Is E-Waste Recycling Important, & What Are The Pros & Cons Of E-Waste Recycling?

E-waste recycling might be important for the benefits it provides.

A very brief list of some of the potential pros and cons of e-waste recycling might be:


Potential Pros

There May Be Environmental & Sustainability Benefits

An environmental benefit is potentially reducing the impact that e-waste pollution may have when e-waste is mismanaged.

A potential sustainability benefit is contributing to sustainable resource management by recovering metals and other raw materials from e-waste items.


There May Be Economic Benefits

Some e-waste products may create economic opportunities via business, income and employment by recovering valuable metals from e-waste items


Potential Cons

There May Be Practical Challenges

Some e-waste items may be practically difficult, or even impossible to recycle for various reasons to do with drop off or collection, and also practically recycling e-waste with recycling equipment and facilities.


There May Be Economic Challenges

Not all e-waste items might be economically viable or profitable to recycle, or it could be argued that more e-waste would be recycled instead of using new raw materials in new e-waste products


Regulations On E-Waste Disposal In Different Countries & States

The legal requirements for the disposal of e-waste differs between different geographic areas, so, it’s best to search for local requirements in a particular city or town.

Some countries for example ban certain types of e-waste from going to landfill, or specific that certain types of e-waste have to be recycled.

Information on some specific countries and States includes …


United States

calrecycle.ca.gov, and dtsc.ca.gov note that California for example has the Electronic Waste Recycling Act which lists certain e waste items that can be recycled

You can check the Act for a full list of the e-waste items that are covered.

E-wastes listed in the Act must be taken to a designated handler or recycler.


In terms of fees, dtsc.ca.gov notes that in California ‘The purchaser of a CED pays a fee at the time of purchase, which is used to pay collectors and recyclers of CEDs that are no longer wanted’


CalRecycle are currently making suggestions to add most devices that require batteries or a power cord to the list of items covered under California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act (sacbee.com)


More details about the E Waste Recycling Act can be seen at dtsc.ca.gov


EPA also discusses how people can recycle their e waste, or batteries found in their electronics at epa.gov



[In some parts of Australia], all e-waste has been banned from landfill since 2013 so it cannot be put in your waste bin at home (marion.sa.gov.au)


To prevent e-waste from going to landfill, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme was implemented under Australia’s Product Stewardship Act 2011.

The scheme provides Australian households and small businesses with access to industry-funded collection and recycling services for televisions and computers.

– cleanaway.com.au


How To Manage E-Waste Better – Potential Solutions

Potential options to manage e-waste in a better way might include, but aren’t limited to:

– Improved e-waste recycling programs

To increase the recycling rate of e-waste, and more effectively recover metals and resources from them


– Re-design or some e-waste

Designing e-waste to make it easier to recycle or recover metals and materials from 

One example of this might be having detachable parts that can be repaired or replaced or recycled, instead of having to replace an entire electronic unit or item


– Labelling of electronic items by manufacturers

About whether they possess potentially hazardous material or not, and how to dispose of them. properly (taking into account the materials and chemicals they contain)


– Reducing the consumption rate of electronic products, and increasing their lifespan at the usage stage (i.e. keeping products longer)


– Manage batteries in e-waste products more effectively

For example, recyclable batteries and reusable batteries might be considered 

Having easily accessible recycling and waste disposal programs available for e waste like batteries might be another option


– Consider how public funding (government funding) and subsidies can help e-waste management

Funding may be provided to certain e-waste recycling and recovery facilities, or to specific types of programs if there’s value in them

cleanaway.com.au mentions that the Victorian Government has provided millions in investment to upgrade e-waste collection and storage sites, to make it easier for citizens to access e-waste disposal points close to them


– In the future, we might consider the role and impact Artificial Intelligence technology and systems can play in more sustainably managing e waste


Potential Impact Of E-Waste On The Environment & Human Health

Different types of e-waste have different materials, metals and chemicals in them that have potential to negatively impact the environment and humans in different ways. 

E-waste particularly has potential to cause a negative impact when it isn’t disposed of properly.

Some of the potential effects include:



The mining of ores and raw materials that are used to make different e-waste products may have it’s own environmental impact and footprint.


Pollution & Contamination

Pollution of contamination of soil, water and the environment can occur when chemicals leach out from e-waste products and items that are improperly disposed of, or that get sent to landfills with ineffective soil liners and leachate management systems

Wildlife may also come into contact with these chemicals and heavy metals, or ingest them


From marion.sa.gov.au:

E-Waste … contains many toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium and lithium.

In landfill, e-waste leaches these hazardous substances into the soil and water which can lead to health and environmental problems.


Human Health

Has to potential to impact human health when chemicals are exposed directly to humans, or, when leaked chemicals and metals get into the water supply (lead, mercury, and sulfuric acid may be some examples)


Resource Depletion & Resource Management Issues

E-waste can use various metals and resources that are either scarce, or valuable in some way.

When e-waste is disposed of without recovering these resources, some argue that this isn’t the most sustainable way to manage these resources.


From marion.sa.gov.au: ‘Sending e-waste to landfill wastes non-renewable resources, including precious metals, glass and plastic’


From cleanaway.com.au

Besides plastic and glass, electronic devices contain base and special metals such as cobalt, tin and antimony as well as precious metals like silver, gold, and platinum, all of which can be fully recovered 

A reasonable portion of the world’s base metals like gold and silver for example go into electronic devices and items

[It’s estimated] that 10 ounces of gold can be extracted from every tonne of printed circuit boards, while more than 100 tonnes of gold ore needs to be processed to get the same amount.


Specific E-Waste Products That May Have The Capacity To Do The Most Environmental & Human Health Harm, Or That Might Present The Most Risk

wikipedia.org lists a range of e-waste items in their guide, along with chemicals or metals they may contain that may be a risk or danger to the environment or human health

Those items include cathode ray tubes (in TV’s, computer monitors etc.), printed circuit boards, chips and other gold plated components, plastics from printers, keyboards, monitors, etc., and computer wires

Read the full wikipedia.org guide though for the full list of chemicals and metals in each ite




1. https://www.marion.sa.gov.au/services-we-offer/waste-and-recycling/electronic-waste-e-waste

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_waste

3. https://www.cleanaway.com.au/about-us/sustainable-future/e-waste-problem/

4. https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article212142999.html 

5. https://www2.calrecycle.ca.gov/Electronics/eRecycle 

6. https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/EWaste/ 

7. https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/EWaste/MoreInfo.cfm#Electronic_Waste_Recycling_Act 

8. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/electronics-donation-and-recycling

9. https://www.createdigital.org.au/urban-mining-recycle-e-waste-profit/

10. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140314-the-worlds-scarcest-material


' ); } ?>

Leave a Comment