Recycling network gets $1m government boost – updated

While eDay was a good start to getting on top of our electronic waste, expanding our network of recycling facilities and creating an everyday solution for households is the next step.

While eDay was a good start to getting on top of our electronic waste, expanding our network of recycling facilities and creating an everyday solution for households is the next step.

RCN e-Cycle, which has 20 depots around the country, has welcomed news that the government will provide an additional $1 million over two years to support recycling of items such as televisions and computers.

Environment Minister Nick Smith made the announcement at the opening of the Wellington e-Cycle Recycling Facility at Seaview.

The additional money to the Waste Minimisation Fund will allow 15 more depots to be established as well as a nationwide publicity campaign, he said.

“These depots build on the good work started with eDay but provide a responsible disposal option every day. Other initiatives with industry are also in the pipeline. Government is also exploring a product stewardship scheme with industry in parallel with developments in Australia," he said.

“This initiative is a further step towards New Zealand better managing the 80,000 tonnes of electronic waste each year."

RCN e-Cycle manager Jon Thornhill said eDay had done a good job of alerting the public to the growing problem of e-waste, but its useful life had come to an end.

“eDay was a short-term band-aid, but it’s time to move to an everyday solution for recycling e-waste. Getting people to stockpile e-waste for the year created a recycling bulge which was logistically difficult to deal with, and a culture of waiting for someone else to fix the problem."

The eDay Trust, however, said it was disappointed the minister had "given up" on the eDay model.

"We think that high profile events such as eDay still have an important role to play until properly funded product stewardship schemes are fully operational,” chair Laurence Zwimpfer said.

Product stewardship schemes mean the cost of recycling is effectively built into the price of new products so consumers can recycle at no extra cost when the equipment reaches end of life.

"Australia has chosen to go down this path and New Zealand needs to follow suit.”

He said the trust was concerned about the viability of a user-pays scheme.

Many people would not pay to to leave items at a drop-off recycling centre when they could dump them in a landfill for free, he said.

"Even in areas where councils are choosing to subsidise the drop-off charges, some local authorities are having second thoughts when they receive the invoice for transport and recycling costs."

The e-Cycle scheme, which collects electronic waste all around New Zealand every day for a small fee, received $400,000 towards set-up costs from the Waste Minimisation Fund in 2010.

Thornhill said RCN’s relationship with the Community Recycling Network (CRN) had been crucial in establishing a permanent nationwide network. There are 17 e-Cycle permanent depots around New Zealand  and three more will open in the next month.

He anticipates a fresh influx of discarded televisions following the nationwide digital switchover.

Smith said that while a new TV is not required to receive digital television, many Kiwis may look to replace their cathode ray tube sets.

CRN spokesperson Karen Driver said items collected by community recycling centres and other depots would be recycled safely and responsibly.

“E-waste contains toxic chemicals and materials, which is why we need to keep it out of New Zealand’s landfills. But we also have to make sure that it is handled correctly all the way down the recycling chain, so that it doesn’t damage any other country’s environment or workers, she said.

While manufacturers and importers of electronic goods needed to be responsible for the end-of-life recycling of their products, consumers needed to take action now.

“But people are turning up to community recycling centres every day with armloads of electronic waste. We can’t wait five or 10 years for a solution.”