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Computer and E-waste Recycling

Computer and E-waste Recycling

Electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste streams around the world. Rapid technological advances mean that the average computer has a life span of less than 5 years. The problem arises at the end of its useful life and is compounded by the hazardous nature of the waste. Computers contain an array of substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium or brominated flame retardants. These have all been shown to be harmful to humans and damaging to the environment.

In New Zealand most redundant electronic equipment is being landfilled. There is no legislation or industry-related body coordinating an effort to deal with e-waste, although the Waste Minimisation Bill which will help, is currently on its second reading in Parliament (as at March 2008). The lack of available data on the amount of e-waste generated makes it hard to determine the extent of the problem. However, e-waste in New Zealand, from the Computer Access NZ Trust has quoted approximately 830,000 new computers were sold on the New Zealand market in 2005. There are also an estimated 10 million cathode ray tubes currently in use or stored awaiting a disposal option in New Zealand.

Small scale refurbishment and recycling is happening at a local level, where individuals are making huge efforts to extend the usable life of equipment. Organisations such as The Ark Recycling, and RCN in Auckland as well as Remarkit Solutions in Wellington will take old computers for refurbishment and reuse in schools and charitable organisations. The public can expect a small charge for this service. Dell has initiated a recycling program in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

While New Zealand Central Government and industry need to increase their level of responsibility, individuals can still be proactive:


Wondering what to do with those old or broken computer parts?

Old TV and Computer Monitors

2 Auckland companies have solved the problem of hazardous waste in the disposal of old televisions and computer monitors.

In true Kiwi do it yourself style, RCN & Associates Ltd and Rose Engineering have teamed up to develop a process, and have locally designed and built equipment for the environmental disposal of end of life cathode ray tubes and TVs.

It has been estimated that there are ten million cathode ray tubes currently in use or stored awaiting a disposal option in New Zealand.

Millions of cathode ray tubes (CRTs) exist in New Zealand as they make up the display device in most computers and televisions. They contain within them many toxic materials as well as the lead such as barium, cadmium, mercury and arsenic.

During the Cathode Ray Tube Disposal Process both the partners play a part. The Monitors or TVs are dismantled and broken down into its component parts. This results in plastic, copper, aluminum and steel all being recycled. The printed circuit boards are further processed environmentally at an ISO Certified Disposal Centre which deals with dangerous wastes environmentally.

The tube then goes through a number of processes including the separation of the lead bearing glass. This glass is consolidated and exported to a lead smelter and used as flux in the smelting of lead.

For further information contact:

Kevin Ruscoe
General Manager, RCN
Phone: + 64 9 413 8533 ext 204
Cell        + 64 (0) 21 739757

The Ark

The Ark

The Ark is an Auckland based company that recovers computers from industry, refurbishes them and sells them at low cost to schools.

This has enabled schools like Aorere College in Papatoetoe, South Auckland, to purchase 60 refurbished computers at a price that was significantly cheaper than buying new computers, enabling the school to take up teaching text-processing on computers instead of typewriters.

Most of the computers that the Ark restores would otherwise have gone to landfill.
Over the last three years the Ark has taken in over 8,000 computers and has yet to dispose of any parts.
They have put 3,000 refurbished units into schools, have dismantled approximately 3,000 for parts and have an inventory of about 2,000 in their warehouse.
At 25-30kg per complete computer, they have diverted between 200 and 240 metric tonnes of potential waste from landfill.

Similar computer recycling businesses exist in Wellington and Christchurch.

If you are interested in purchasing refurbished, guaranteed computers contact:

Donating computers

Or for more general information on how to donate computers, refer to the Computer Access NZ (CANZ) Trust website.
CANZ recycle business computers for schools and the community. http://www.eday.org.nz

Other computer refurbishers include ....

  • Molten Media, Christchurch: www.molten.org.nz  
  • EzyPC, Christchurch: 03 322 9358
  • Computer Recyclers NZ, Tauranga: 07 574 9955,
  • Dell Australia & New Zealand has launched a voluntary recycling programme offering business, home and small business customers a way of disposing of unwanted PC’s.
  • The Computer Broker, Christchurch: http://www.computerbroker.co.nz/

United Nations Study

A U.N. study highlights the environmental hazards posed by the worldwide popularity of personal computers. Manufacturing the average PC requires 10 times the product’s weight in fossil fuels, says the study -- compared to twice the product’s weight for cars and refrigerators. Computer manufacturing also entails heavy use of toxic chemicals. To make matters worse, the lifespan of a PC is short and getting shorter, while sales continue to boom, making for a massive disposal problem. Discarded computers are often shipped to poorly managed facilities in developing countries to be recycled, leading to toxic waste and health risks for workers. The study calls on computer manufacturers to make their products easier to upgrade and U.N. member states to encourage citizens to purchase used PCs and use them longer. Thirteen countries, mostly in Europe, have passed legislation on computer recycling. The U.S., the world’s largest PC producer, has made no moves in this direction.

Source: BBC News, Tim Hirsch, 08 Mar 2004 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3541623.stm>

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