Ethically Kate: How do I dispose of old electronic equipment safely?

There are specialist companies which will dispose of your e-waste responsibly. Photo / Getty

Q: I have two boxes of old electrical cables, chargers and plugs. How do I get rid of the ones I don’t need – and why is there not one charger to rule them all?

A: I have a cardboard box sitting in my office filled with old cables, computers and faulty chargers. The box came from Computer Recycling. My family and I fill it up together. Once it’s full, I will send it back to them using the return label provided.

They’ll make sure all data is securely erased, separate useful parts and use these for fixing other units, and they’ll recycle my e-waste responsibly if it cannot be repurposed.

I had the pleasure of visiting the factory several months ago and saw exactly what happens when a box like mine comes through the door. I walked past bins filled with parts, labelled for the convenience of the technicians who were reconstructing machines. I was also wowed by the e-waste machinery that grinds and separates plastic, copper and other materials so they can be reused to build something new.

If a $20 box to fill your e-waste with isn’t an option for you, your local recycling centre is likely to accept your e-waste too. It will involve a small cost, but I recommend labelling a box in your home for e-waste and taking it to your local once it’s full.

New Zealanders love electronics. We produce one of the highest amounts of e-waste per capita in the world. But if there was one charger to rule them all, how would companies make money from us?

Tech companies love to switch up their charging ports and ensure you have to waltz back to them with your wallet open. Of course, different devices require chargers with particular amperage, but unfortunately, the problem lies in the wasteful design of most electronic devices.


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