What can be recycled from e-waste?

Much of what's used to make computers can be recycled, yet more than 1.5 million are dumped in Australian landfill each year. Their re-usable materials include ferrous (iron-based) and non-ferrous metals, glass and various types of plastic.

So exactly what can be recycled from a computer? Almost 99% of the components that make up a PC can be recycled. By recycling we can avoid serious toxins, chemicals and heavy metals from going to landfill and polluting our environment.

Find an e-waste collection near you.

Read our e-waste fact sheet.

 

CRT Tube Monitor:
95% glass
2% ferrous metal (screws, etc)

CRT Tube Monitor
Monitor Case and base:
98% plastic 
2% ferrous metal (screws, etc)
Monitor Case and base
Degaussing wire:
95% copper wire 5% PVC plastic tape
Degaussing wire

Monitor yoke:
75% copper
10% ferrous metal
15% plastic*

*(Could be recycled, but plastic particles are too small after refining process)

Monitor yoke
Monitor circuit board:
90% fibreglass or plastic 
5% non-ferrous metals 
5% other recyclable materials (diodes, etc)
Monitor circuit board
Flatscreen monitor
Glass, plastic, metals
Flatscreen monitor

Computer case: 
90% steel 
10% ABS or resin plastic 
(this varies from model to model)

Computer case
Floppy drives:
95% metal (ferrous and non-ferrous) 
5% circuit board
Floppy drives
Mouse:
90% plastic 
5% circuit board 
5% cable (can be recovered)
Mouse
Cables:
90% PVC plastic
5% copper 
5% steel
Cables
CD ROM case:
50% ferrous metal 
50% plastic resin
CD ROM case
Keyboard:
99% plastic resin with PVC and copper cabling
Keyboard
Hard drives:
80% aluminium 
15% steel 
5% circuit board
Hard drives
Heat sink:
95% aluminium 
4% polypropylene plastic (fan) 
1% mixed metal
Heat sink

Power supply unit:
85% steel case 
15% printed circuit board

Various screws:
100% ferrous metal
Various screws
Mother Boards/ Expansion Cards 
(See Circuit board)
Mother Boards/ Expansion Cards

 

Material use and re-use:

Metal: 100% Recyclable
 Non-ferrous metals, mainly aluminium and copper can all be re-smelted and re-manufactured. Ferrous metals such as steel and iron can be also be re-used.

Glass: 99% Recyclable
 The best option is "glass to glass", where shards are processed to make material for new tubes or lead-based glass products, or for use in ceramics Alternatively, lead is extracted by smelting and re-used in lead products, and glass in road base.

Plastic: 100% Recyclable 
Computers generally contain polypropylene, or ABS plastic or a blended resin such as ABS/polycarbonate or polystyrene, which can be re-used as packaging, textiles, etc.

PVC: could be recycled
Recycling cost usually sees PVC sent to landfill. A new process developed in Europe offers hope.

Fibreglass: non recyclable
The type used is impregnated or coated with a flame retardant, which is often toxic. It becomes brittle during use, making it unsuitable for re-use.

Circuit Boards: could be recycled
Generally made from layered plastic with copper inlays, these are hazardous. They contain materials such as gold, silver and palladium, which can be recovered and re-used. In most cases the plastic can't be recycled because the particles are reduced to too-small a size during refining.