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New Zealand faces an e-waste crisis

14 Jul 2011

New Zealand faces an e-waste crisis

The eDay New Zealand Trust has released a report highlighting the spiralling electronic waste (e-waste) problem in New Zealand. The report estimates that 2.2 million televisions and 1.5 million home computer monitors, each containing toxic cathode ray tubes, will be dumped in the next few years.

“Our desire for the latest gadgets has resulted in this huge environmental crisis in New Zealand and the world. Computer sales are on the increase and we are facing a disposal deluge of CRT TVs with the imminent switch to digital television in September 2012,” said Laurence Zwimpfer, Chair of the eDay New Zealand Trust.

“This hunger for electronics must be met with government regulation to ensure thousands of tonnes of toxic ewaste will not be dumped in our landfills,” he continued.

With the release of the report, the eDay Trust is calling on industry and government to work together and permanently solve the increasing problem through a national co-regulatory ewaste product stewardship based recycling scheme.

“We’re not talking about heavy handed government intervention. We’re calling on the Government to give the IT and TV industries a clear commitment to support an industry-managed scheme with the necessary regulations to ensure all suppliers and importers contribute equitably to the costs of a national recycling scheme,” Mr Zwimpfer said.

Anne Lister, of Gisborne District Council, local eDay organisers, agrees there needs to be a central government solution.

The release of this report coincides with the recent passing in Australia of the Product Stewardship Bill by both Houses of Parliament in Australia on 22 June 2011. The first scheme to be established under the new Australian legislation will be a national, industry-led television and computer recycling scheme, to be phased in from the end of 2011.

“These developments in Australia are an example of positive cooperation between industry and government,” said Mr Zwimpfer. “We hope New Zealand can demonstrate the same level of e-responsibility that is being demonstrated in Australia.”

New Zealand is rapidly falling behind Australia and the rest of the world as the voluntary product stewardship approach promoted here is simply not working for computers and TVs. The evidence in our report from other countries strongly suggests that voluntary schemes will never work for waste electronics.”

The report launch also coincides with the news that eDay 2011 has been denied funding through the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund. The eDay Trust says eDay is still needed to plug the gap until product stewardship schemes are put in place, but without any central government support eDay simply cannot proceed. “This is a huge blow to the 60 communities that participated in eDay last year and have been encouraging their citizens to store their ewaste for this year’s event. That’s unlikely to happen now,” said Mr Zwimpfer.

Locally at the Gisborne site last year, 503 cars disposed of over 2,600 items of computer waste and avoiding over 31 tonnes of waste going to landfill.

Anne Lister agrees that eDay is still needed locally until ewaste drop off facilities are permanently available to rate payers, free of charge.

“This would be possible if the cost of disposal was built into the purchase price of your computer or TV. The cost then seems insignificant. You are less inclined to pay to dispose of your computer or TV when it no longer works.”

The report, titled Ewaste in New Zealand: five years on, follows from e-Waste in New Zealand: taking responsibility for end-of-life computers and TVs, produced in 2006. Both reports can be downloaded from www.eday.org.nz(external link).