Push for legislation to keep ewaste out of landfill

The eDay Trust has released an eWaste Manifesto that calls on all political parties to support a strong and sustainable plan for reduce the amount of electronic waste ending up in landfill.

Its key recommendation is for the development of industry-led product stewardship scheme with regulatory support from government.

The trust says it has been advocating for such a scheme since 2010, one under which the cost of recycling would be built into the price of new products enabling New Zealanders to recycle their products at no extra cost when the equipment reaches end of life.

The chair of the eDay Trust, Laurence Zwimpfer said such schemes were effective in many OECD countries. “What we need is a permanent and sustainable solution, and this now needs some urgent action by Government.”

According to the trust, every New Zealander generates 19kg of ewaste each year, and the amount is projected to grow to 27kg per person by 2030. Because there is no legislated scheme to manage this waste, and 85,000 tonnes of it are disposed of into landfills in New Zealand every year.

The trust says the Government has supported a number of short-term ewaste collection and recycling initiatives over the past decade that have diverted around 800,000 electronic devices from landfills at a cost to the Government of around $20 million.

Zwimpfer said none of these initiatives had resulted in a long-term sustainable solution, and the volume of new electronic equipment was expanding at 10 times the rate of the government’s recycling efforts.

“Research carried out by UMR Research, NZIER and the Wellington Waste Forum over the last 10 years has consistently shown consumer support for a scheme where the cost of recycling is built into the purchase price of new equipment,” he said.

“So, given this consumer preference and the high cost to government of supporting short-term recycling initiatives, we can’t understand why government does not want to work with industry to solve this problem once and for all,” Zwimpfer said.

“All government has to do is to declare ewaste a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and set a timetable for compulsory product stewardship.”

The eDay Trust was established in 2010 to take over the work of Computer Access New Zealand, a special project of the 20/20 Trust. eDay’s primary focus at the time was to manage the annual ewaste collection events for computer equipment.

According to the trust, in 2010, 18,274 cars dropped off 869 tonnes of computer waste at over 60 locations throughout New Zealand and the Cook Islands, but the Government withdrew support for this scheme in 2011, citing a preference for ‘everyday’ collection facilities rather than a one-day annual event.

Legislation “long overdue”

The New Zealand Product Stewardship Council (NZPSC) has backed the eDay Trust’s initiative saying legislation is long overdue.

NZPSC co-ordinator, Sandra Murray, said the Waste Minimisation Act (2008) was intended to be used to manage problematic waste, but had failed to keep ewaste out of landfill.

“Our government has twice gone through an exercise to investigate e-waste product stewardship, and on both occasions industry representatives have requested that such a scheme is mandatory, to make sure all companies are held responsible,” She said.

“But since the Waste Minimisation Act was passed in 2008, the government has refused to use the ‘priority product’ regulatory components of the Act to address the e-waste problem. Instead, over $70m of landfill levy money has been spent on projects and schemes which have had little, if any, impact on the amount of rubbish created or going to landfill.”

Murray said the NZPSC supported an increase in the levy applied to waste-to-landfill, matched with proper e-waste product stewardship to ensure producers took responsibility for the whole life cycle of their products.

“The current voluntary approach to the management of e-waste has failed to support the recycling market, failed to create a level playing field for businesses and failed to address the problem,” she said.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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