Sunday Star-Times

Electric dreams

Government looks at take-back scheme


Amandatory recycling scheme for old computers, television­s and other ‘‘electronic waste’’ could be on the cards in the wake of the change in government and a critical UN-backed report.

Associate Environmen­t Minister Eugenie Sage has asked officials to look into a compulsory ‘‘product stewardshi­p scheme’’ for e-waste.

A scheme would not necessaril­y force consumers to recycle, but would mean businesses would have to put arrangemen­ts in place to take back e-waste and dispose of returned items in an environmen­tally-friendly way.

Such schemes are typically funded by a levy on new goods.

Sage emphasised no decisions had been made and said other options would also be looked at by officials.

But she noted that when the Environmen­t Ministry last consulted on options for dealing with e-waste in 2014, most submission­s – including from industry – had been in favour of government interventi­on.

‘‘Because of the e-waste problem in New Zealand and because we are lagging behind other countries, it is a priority issue.’’

One challenge was that New Zealand did not appear to generate enough e-waste to make it economical­ly viable to recycle it all within New Zealand, she said.

Instead, most e-waste had to be dismantled and then sent overseas for recycling.

In 2009, major television manufactur­ers – including Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Philips – backed a proposal for a $30 levy on new television­s to pay for a mandatory recycling scheme.

But the initiative lapsed amid a lack of support from government, frustratin­g e-waste campaigner­s.

A proposal for a similar takeback scheme for personal computers became bogged down because major manufactur­ers were concerned they might end up carrying the can for end-of-life computers made by local assemblers.

New Zealand was ‘‘named and shamed’’ in a report on e-waste published by the UN-funded Internatio­nal Telecommun­ications Union (ITU) in December.

It singled out New Zealand and Australia as together producing the highest volumes of e-waste in the world – more than 20 kilos per person per year in New Zealand’s case – and having among the lowest documented rates for recycling.

The documented recycling rate was ‘‘zero’’ in New Zealand as it is one of the few developed countries not to have any laws to manage to e-waste.

Kevin Ruscoe, manager of Wellington recycling firm IT Recycla, said about 70 per cent of ‘‘toxicity’’ in landfills was related to e-waste and the criticism of New Zealand policies was warranted.

‘‘There are well-meaning people trying to do stuff with e-waste in small communitie­s but the problem is they tend to just pick the ‘good material’ out of it and dump the rest,’’ he said.

Environmen­t Ministry spokesman Laurie Edwards said the ITU report was ‘‘factually accurate’’ but omitted a number of nonprofit or council recycling operations which already took e-waste.

 ?? ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF ?? Past attempts to get companies to take back e-waste have failed for lack of government backing.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF Past attempts to get companies to take back e-waste have failed for lack of government backing.
 ?? STUFF ?? Electronic waste being sorted.
STUFF Electronic waste being sorted.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand