We have been getting ‘waste’ from the Sustainability Trust, and learning about the industrialised processes required to break them down into raw materials and ‘recycle’ them.
For example, with old CFL light bulbs, the glass from the tubes is crushed and turned into insulation fibreglass for houses, the mercury is made into dental amalgam, the phosphor becomes plant fertilizer, aluminium from the tube ends is turned into ingots for foundries.
Instead of treating them as raw material to be recycled, we found it is possible to preserve aspects of the designed object, combining them with other e-waste components such as transformers, and turn them into functional lightbulbs in new forms.
I have this fantasy for a new Christmas tradition: instead of buying Christmas lights from Bunnings or Mitre 10, you would go and find dead AA batteries, take apart CFL light bulbs and other E-Waste to make Joule Thief Circuits. These circuits amplify the remaining voltage left in the battery, enough to make Christmas lights flash for many months. The whole thing is made completely out of E-Waste.