E-waste

To recycle your e-waste see our e-waste recycling page.

Electronic waste (e-waste or WEEE) is the fastest growing sector of the waste stream and it contains all manner of toxic materials including lead, mercury, and cadmium.  Recycling of e-waste into e-scrap prevents the natural environment from being polluted, reduces our reliance on new mineral extraction, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and can help improve human rights issues.

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

New Zealand lags many of our major trading partners in terms of e-waste legislation. For example the European Union has enacted the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), many states in the United States have restrictions on e-waste, and Australia has the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme.  At this stage New Zealand effectively has no e-waste disposal controls. There was however two commendable Government funded initiatives carried out in the past: the e-Day collections, and the TV takeback campaign.  Unfortunately, these programmes no longer operate.

New Zealand ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal in 1994, preventing the export of e-waste to certain countries. Prior to 2004, when the first application for the export of e-waste was made, anecdotal and circumstantial evidence pointed to it being exported illegally.

E-waste can be turned into e-scrap by recycling it.  New Zealand has a small but growing e-scrap processing industry but there is a lack of data on its size.

A collection of e-waste in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Image: Alan Liefting, public domain (2004)

 

Further information

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