One in three Australians buy cheap vacuum cleaners and replace them when they stop working, a Canstar Blue survey has found. So, if we’re going to be throwing out old vacuum cleaners on a regular basis, how can we dispose of them in an environmentally-responsible way?
Small household appliances, such as vacuum cleaners, constitute electronic waste or ‘e-waste’. This means you can’t just stick your old vacuum in a recycling wheelie bin or drop it on the curb (unless you’ve booked a collection with your council). Electrical equipment contains hazardous substances that need to be treated in a special way, and is banned from landfill because it does not decompose.
How can I recycle my old vacuum cleaner?
It’s not hard to recycle your old vacuum cleaner. You might be surprised to know that about 90 per cent of the materials used to make electrical appliances can be recycled. Metal from the machine is used to make new metal items, while the plastics are recycled and used in the production of things like:
- Outdoor furniture
- Plastic plant pots
- Dashboards for cars
If the vacuum still works well, you can give it away to your local charity or op shop. Charities generally get so many clothes that they are grateful for the odd appliance. However, don’t just dump your vacuum besides any old charity bin – the council can still issue fines for this. One man in Brisbane was fined nearly $2000 for illegal dumping after attempting to donate an old table. The best option is to visit the op shop in store hours. Op shops are a great way to recycle old appliances.
If the machine is dead as a doorknob and you’re buying a new one, you can trade in the old one for recycling at your local appliances dealer. Godfrey’s Australia actually offers a discount on buying a new vacuum cleaner if you drop off your old one with them to be recycled! You drop the old vacuum off, and they recycle every last part of it. Not only is this better for the environment, you can also be left with more money in your back pocket. You can view the range of discounts they have when trading-in here.
Planet Ark Campaign Manager Brad Gray said these recycling programs mean vacuum cleaners don’t just have to be another part of the landfill. “It is important that companies take responsibility for their products at the end of their life by putting in place collection and recycling programs,” he said. “It’s not yet a legal responsibility but it is a moral one.”
This comes after the Good Guys and Dyson ‘eco-trading’ campaign was established in 2011. This was a scheme whereby the two companies set up a ‘buyback’ scheme of old unwanted vacuum cleaners. It was a one month campaign, but Dyson still operates the buyback scheme today.
Dyson Australia is following the lead of Dyson UK in its initiative to pick up and recycle old vacuum cleaners for Dyson customers at no cost to the consumer. Dyson picks up the cost of recycling.
Where are some e-waste facilities near me?
Nationally there are a large range of private companies that are happy to take in any orphan appliances and recycle them. Whether they are free or not is another question. Many states are going green and now offer free ways to recycle e-waste; Planet Ark’s recyclingnearyou.com.au is a comprehensive database on where you can recycle e-waste nationwide. Here is a state-by-state breakdown of how to recycle e-waste:
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT has a host of e-waste recycling programs available here. However, the ACT government states vacuum cleaners that are at the end of their life are to be disposed in landfill, with working models able to be recycled at retailers such as Godfreys, or other drop-off points such as The Green Shed.
New South Wales
The City of Sydney offers a comprehensive website on how to recycle e-waste in the city, and hosts E-Waste Drop off Days at the Sydney Park Depot on various days throughout the year. For more information, visit the City Council website here.
The Northern Territory
Sadly the NT and City of Darwin are a little lacking when it comes to e-waste recycling facilities. All states and territories are under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, but that doesn’t cover larger white goods like vacuum cleaners.
South East Queensland is well-covered when it comes to recycling e-waste. In Brisbane, residents can take their vacuum cleaner to the marked e-waste recycling bins at transfer stations, for free. The Gold Coast has free e-waste recycling depots across the city. The list is here and a few are run by the Endeavour Foundation, who will donate appliances in good working order.The Sunshine Coast also has a number of e-waste recycling facilities.
In South Australia, you can use the Recycle Right search engine to find your local charity to give it away to. Zero Waste SA also recommends trying your local scrap metal recyclers, as they offer free collection in metropolitan areas.
Boasting the moniker ‘The Green State’, it might be unsurprising that Tasmania has e-waste facilities ‘littered’ all over the state. Specifically, these councils offer comprehensive information about where you can recycle e-waste in their respective jurisdictions:
The City of Melbourne has one free e-waste recycling day each year. It also has a range of strategies in place to create a greener city. More information can be found here.
The WA Government and councils in the state have a number of schemes in place to tackle e-waste recycling. There is a permanent e-waste recycling facility located in Balcatta, just outside of Perth. The City of Bunbury also has a number of e-waste recycling facilities available. National Recycling Week in 2016 is on between 7-13 November. It’s an important week in our social calendar to learn about how to recycle every imaginable appliance and gadget, and how to take better care of the environment.