Libraries lend a hand to Sydney e-waste collection

By Paul Hemsley

Low energy light bulbs might be a bright idea to cut household electricity bills, but the City of Sydney is now being forced to come up with innovative new ways to keep literally tonnes of the otherwise toxic lamps out of household rubbish bins.

As the volume of small scale e-waste explodes, City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has started to push a new scheme that encourages residents to drop off their batteries, bulbs and other small electronic items like phones at ten new permanent collection points located at libraries and community centres.

The new collection points are intended to relieve residents the clutter that comes with saving smaller electronic items up for quarterly e-waste collections that also accept lager items like televisions, printers and computers.

The big bulb clean up follows the scrapping of incandescent light bulbs in the late 2000s which were succeeded by newer and more energy efficient bulbs, However these have also come at an environmental price thanks to the need to safely dispose of mercury-vapour bulbs because of their serious environmental and health risks.

According to the City of Sydney, about one million light bulbs containing mercury are sent to landfill in Australia every week, even though 95 per cent of such globes can be recycled for glass, metals, phosphor powder and mercury.

Another growing concern for local governments is the disposal of batteries – which the City of Sydney’s new recycling stations are specifically designed to accept. At least 345 million handheld batteries are used nationally each year with around 16,000 tonnes of batteries dumped annually.

For densely populated councils like the City of Sydney, the sheer scale of batteries used is illustrated by the huge one tonne pile of 21,500 used cells that are collected annually at e-waste and chemical clean-up days.

Ms Moore said batteries, light bulbs and mobile phones just don’t belong in household bins.

“Many of the materials from these products can be made into new products, sparing them from landfill which can damage the environment,” Ms Moore said.

Ms Moore said she hoped ‘take-back’ options would be available from manufacturers in the future, allowing residents to return used items for recycling.

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