E-waste and e-scrap are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably but they can be assigned different meanings. E-waste is electronic waste that goes to landfill whereas e-scrap is discarded material that is processed and recycled into new materials.
Turning e-scrap into useful commodities comes at a cost and sometimes that cost has to be passed onto those who are disposing of the items. In other cases the cost to those disposing of it may be free or there may be a payout. In some countries the cost to recycle is paid for by the manufacturers, and ultimately the consumers.
Since e-waste is an increasing percentage of the waste stream turning it into e-scrap is becoming increasingly important. From an environmental and social perspective all e-waste should be turned into e-scrap.
E-scrap comes from domestic, commercial, industrial, and government sources and includes items such as batteries, appliances, medical equipment, mobile phones, computers, home and in car entertainment devices, security devices, lamps, smoke alarms, and wire and cable.
New Zealand has a small but growing e-scrap processing industry but there is a lack of data on its size.
There have been a few issues with the e-scrap industry in New Zealand and some bear a similarity to what has been happening in the United States. Prior to the first ever application for export of hazardous e-waste it possible that there was illegal exports of e-waste. Another issue was the illegal export of e-waste collected from the 2009 eDay. Alex Wong of SMT Ltd was fined as a result.
A major event in the New Zealand e-scrap industry was the collapse of RCN, a major player in the industry. RCN had secured a $4.4 million government contract to recycle televisions as part of the TV takeback scheme. The company went into liquidation in 2014 without completely fulfilling the contract.
Tredi New Zealand, who are no longer trading in New Zealand and whose parent company was acquired by Séché Environmental, went into liquidation in 2015. Tredi were accepting batteries, as well as other hazardous goods, for overseas processing.
The per capita processing of e-scrap varies amongst countries with high rates in the European Union and some of the US states. The environmental and societal harm created by e-scrap processing also varies with some of the most damaging procedures occurring in China, India, and lately in Africa. The EU, the US, and Japan have some of the more stringent protection measures for e-scrap processing.