E-waste recycling

There are good reasons to recycle electronic waste (also known as e-waste or WEEE).  Recycling e-waste can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it can reduce the reliance on conflict minerals, and it can help local economies.

Reducing consumption, repairing, refurbishing, and repurposing are all better alternatives to recycling.

E-waste could be defined as any discarded item that is able to conduct electricity that is not recycled or reused.  Major e-waste items are computers and other types of IT equipment, televisions, mobile phones, appliances, and batteries.

E-waste recycling is sometimes described as e-cycling, and e-waste destined for recycling is sometimes referred to as e-scrap.

New Zealand
There is no mandatory recycling of e-waste in New Zealand but some e-waste is recycled through commercial and non-profit organisations as well as by private individuals.

An e-waste recycling standard has been produced for Australia and New Zealand (AS/NZS 5377) and the Ministry for the Environment have developed a series of check lists for e-waste recyclers.

Because of the low total population and low population density New Zealand lacks the financial advantage afforded by economics of scale enjoyed by larger countries.  On the other hand the vast majority of the population is serviced by an extensive transportation infrastructure thus reducing one of the recycling costs.

E-waste has in recent years begun to be dumped on roadsides.  With the switch from analogue to digital television broadcasting and with the end of Government subsidised recycling CRT televisions have become a common item of roadside e-waste.  The market rate for CRT television recycling (as of 2016) is NZ$25 per unit.  For the majority this cost is a disincentive to have them recycled.

Other countries
Legislation requiring e-waste recycling varies markedly around the world with European Union on the forefront in addressing e-waste volumes.  The United States and Japan also have good legislation mandating e-waste recycling.

China, and in the past decade, India and Africa have become a dumping ground for e-waste form the “developed countries”.  E-waste is being recycling in these countries using very poor practices resulting in high levels of pollution being generated.  In recent year China and India have begun to address the e-waste dumping issue.

Video

Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia, Basel Action Network (2002) – a seminal video highlighting the e-waste problem. (23 min 3 sec)

Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia

A powerful documentary about the dumping of toxic computer wastes on developing nations, specifically Guiyu, China. To learn how you can prevent your electronics from ending up in a toxic dump site, please choose an e-Stewards certified recycler in your area. Visit http://e-stewards.org to learn more. http://www.e-stewards.org http://www.ban.org

Further information

  • Standards Australia ; Wellington : Standards New Zealand. (2013) Collection, Storage, Transport and Treatment of End-of-Life Electrical and Electronic Equipment.  AS/NZS 5377:2013