E-waste disposal safety
Make sure you properly dispose of all your old devices and anything with a battery or plug.
Alexander Pan avatar
Written by Alexander Pan
Updated over a week ago

E-waste (short for electronic waste) is a relatively recent problem that's only grown more worrying as technology keeps improving. As device ownership increases, the number of obsolete and old devices also increases. Couple that with data not being properly wiped on old devices, and the result is a worrying environmental and privacy concern that's only going to grow over time.

To help raise awareness of the e-waste problem, we're going to take a deeper look into what it is, what you can do with old devices and appliances, and how to properly dispose of E-Waste.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

What exactly is 'e-waste' and why is it a problem?

E-waste basically refers to any electronic item with a battery and/or plug you want to dispose of. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • Computers and their associated parts (including monitors, printers, keyboards, and internal components)

  • Televisions

  • DVD and CD players

  • Mobile phones

  • Power tools

  • Hi-fi systems

  • Kitchen Appliances.

The concerns with disposing of e-waste revolve around two major issues: environmental and data privacy.

Environmental concerns

There are several million metric tonnes of electronic devices being disposed of every year. Approximately 57.4 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste was generated in 2021 and this total is growing at an average rate of 2 Mt a year. With an estimated 347 Mt of unrecycled e-waste in 2023, this has resulted in major pollution and waste management concerns.

More worryingly, electronic scrap components contain potentially harmful materials, such as lead, cadmium, or beryllium, which may pose significant health risks to workers who are exposed to e-waste on a regular basis.

Data privacy concerns

Thousands of tonnes of phones and other devices are disposed of every year. However, this doesn't mean that these devices are broken down and recycled. Many old devices are refurbished and resold overseas.

The issue here is that many of these discarded old phones and devices have not been wiped or 'sanitised' properly of its data, meaning that there's plenty of personal data remaining on them. This poses a significant privacy and security risk as any remaining data and personal information on these old devices will be in the possession of new owners who could potentially sell it on the dark web.

What to do with old devices

Simply deleting everything and factory resetting your device isn't enough to wipe the data off a device as there are software and tools available to reverse this. There's only one guaranteed way to completely wipe the data off a device: Physically destroy the device's hard drive.

Now, this is impractical for basically everyone, so the alternative is to do a thorough wipe of any old devices before recycling or selling them. With older devices containing a hard disk drive (HDD), installing a fresh copy of an operating system will erase all the data on it.

But newer devices use solid-state drives (SSD) and you'll need to encrypt it to ensure that your old data can't be recovered. Here's what you need to do to encrypt your device before wiping it clean:

Windows PC or Laptops

You can use Device Encryption or BitLocker to encrypt. However, not all SSDs support these features so you'll need to find out if it does. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Settings in the menu.

  2. Click System and then click About.

    • If you see an option for Device Encryption, click it and follow the instructions to encrypt your hard drive.

    • If Device Encryption isn't an option for your PC, you might be able to turn on BitLocker, depending on which version of Windows 10 you have, or if you're using Windows 11. Under Related settings, click BitLocker settings on Windows 10 or BitLocker on Windows 11 and follow the instructions to enable it. If the link takes you to the Microsoft Store to purchase the Pro version of Windows, you won't be able to use BitLocker until you pay for the upgrade.

To wipe the data off your Windows device:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Settings in the menu.

  2. Click Update & Security.

  3. Click Recovery.

  4. On the Recovery page in the Reset this PC section, click Get started.

  5. On the Choose an option page, click Remove everything.

  6. Follow the instructions to complete the process, and Windows will reset the computer back to its factory default settings.


To encrypt your Mac's SSD, you'll have to enable FileVault. To do this:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the menu bar at the top of the screen to bring up the Apple menu.

  2. Click System Preferences.

  3. Click Security & Privacy.

  4. Click on the FileVault tab, and then click on the lock icon in the bottom left corner to unlock the panel for editing. You might need to enter your password to proceed.

  5. Click Turn on FileVault. You might need to enter your password again.

  6. In the pop-up, tick the "Create recovery key" and "do not use my iCloud account radial button," and then click on Continue.

  7. You will then see a recovery code that you can write down somewhere or save a screenshot on your Mac. However, you don't need to since you're just going to wipe the data from the drive anyway. Click Continue to encrypt the SSD.

To wipe the data off your Mac device, it's important to know whether your Mac has an Apple silicone or an Intel processor. That's because the process for wiping data differs depending on which processor your Mac has. Don't worry, we'll go through the process for both:

On Macs with an Apple silicone processor

  1. Shut down your Mac.

  2. Press and hold the power button. Keep holding it even when the Apple logo and "Continue holding for startup options" appear.

  3. Release the power button when "Loading startup options" appears.

  4. Click on Options.

  5. Select your user account or any account you know the password to.

  6. Enter the password to your user account.

  7. Select Disk Utility.

  8. Select your drive in the left side menu, and then click Erase at the top.

  9. In the pop-up, click Erase to completely remove everything from the drive.

On Macs with Intel processor

  1. Shut down your Mac.

  2. Press and hold Command + R, and then press the power button on your Mac to turn it on.

  3. Continue pressing Command + R until you see the macOS utilities window.

  4. Select Disk Utility.

  5. Select your drive in the left side menu, and then click Erase at the top.

  6. In the pop-up, click Erase to completely remove everything from the drive.

Smartphones and tablets

Erasing data off smartphones and tablets is a bit simpler. You can reset to factory settings with just a few steps:

  • iPhone and iPads: Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.

  • Android devices: System > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset) > Delete all data. Enter your password, if needed.

How to dispose of E-waste

For those in Australia, each state and territory has its own laws and infrastructure for you to properly dispose or recycle e-waste:

For those in New Zealand, there are free TechCollect NZ drop-off sites for all your e-waste. Head over to their website here.

One last thing to remember when disposing of e-waste: Never place batteries or electronic products in any of your bins!

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Business Insider, Maitland Mercury, The Roundup and SBS

Image credit: Alabama Extension at Flickr

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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