Students\’ project evaluates the impact of analogue e-waste



Australia is going digital and as the final analogue television switch off approaches, the number of abandoned television sets sitting on neighborhood footpaths is a clear indicator that most will likely wind up at the local landfill rather than being destined for a more environmentally-responsible end.

How to properly dispose of analogue television equipment has also been a big challenge – albeit on a larger scale – for the broadcast industry. But a Macquarie University research project into analogue e-waste has helped one organisation, Broadcast Australia, move a step closer to finding a greener and more environmentally responsible solution for their redundant analogue transmitters. Broadcast Australia is responsible for about 580 transmission sites located throughout metropolitan, regional and rural Australia.

Five final-year Environmental Science students at the University undertook a project to determine the exact make-up of the various parts which make up an analogue transmitter. The students’ project was supported by Broadcast Australia.

The project team included Briony Papps, Katherine Dodd, Kirsty Williams, Darcy Shaw and Rhian Own and was overseen by Macquarie environmental scientist, Associate Professor Damian Gore.

Knowing what the various components are comprised of is the first step in being able to maximise their recyclability since most recyclers will only accept equipment of known chemical makeup.

The students used XRF spectrometry to ascertain exactly what chemicals and hazardous materials were present in an analogue transmitter power amplifier. Their results showed a spectrum of 45 detectable compounds with almost 50 per cent of the power amplifier comprised of its aluminium casing – a material that can be easily removed and recycled. The students also found significant quantities of iron, tin and copper – much of which could be recovered effectively.

But there were also a number of hazardous substances detected including bromine, lead, nickel chromium, cadmium and arsenic.
The project allowed Broadcast Australia to now work towards developing a more environmentally friendly disposal strategy for their redundant equipment based on the students’ findings.