TODAY |

Fresh calls for New Zealand to clean up its 'snowballing' e-waste problem

There are fresh calls for New Zealand to deal with its problematic e-waste and stop tonnes of potentially harmful rubbish ending up in our landfills every year.

E-waste. Source: istock.com

Around 80,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated every year but only an estimated two per cent of that waste is recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills across the country. That’s according to Computer Recycling, a company that’s been dealing with e-waste for over 10 years now.

In the time since the Auckland-based company was formed, it has recycled equipment from fridges and dishwashers through to sever and network equipment. And the number of e-waste products that it is recycling is only increasing.

“In the past three years our company has doubled in size and last month we processed 140,000 kilograms of electronic waste,” says Computer Recycling’s managing director, Patrick Moynahan.

Back in 2017, a UN report revealed New Zealand was one of the world’s largest electronic waste generators in the OECD.

Moynahan says New Zealand needs to follow the likes of Victoria in Australia and ban e-waste from landfills.

“A ban would mean that e-waste could no longer be disposed of in our household bins but would need to be collected or taken to a drop off point managed by an electronic recycling facility,” he says.

“Electronic waste in landfills creates a toxic combination of chemicals that permeates our environment, contaminating the resources produced from the land including the food and drink we consume.

“The leaking of even the smallest quantities of these harmful chemicals into the environment can cause large-scale damage.”

New Zealand currently has no national regulations for e-waste, which means many Kiwis just dispose of their electrical items directly to the landfill.

According to the Ministry for the Environment's website, the ability to recycle electronic waste is “currently limited in New Zealand”.

“A lot of activities under the banner of recycling actually involve remanufacturing WEEE [waste electrical and electronic equipment] into its constituent parts, which are then sent for further processing and materials recovery in New Zealand or overseas.

“All remanufacturing operations in New Zealand are manual, and therefore labour intensive. This means disassembly activities are economically marginal and are affected by the costs of labour, landfilling and the price available for dismantled materials.”

Moynahan says the Government needs to do more.

“Alternatives to landfill must be encouraged or made mandatory.

"Many conscious Kiwis are already making the effort, but voluntary action can only do so much with an issue that is snowballing at such a fast pace.”