Types of Waste
Electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste streams around the world1. All electronic products from motorised toothbrushes to computers and refrigerators contribute to e-waste at the end of their useful lives. Rapid technological advances mean that the average computer has a life span of less than 5 years. Also with the switch over to digital television in New Zealand next year, it is projected that near 400,000 old TVs will be discarded for new digital ones2.
The problem arises at the end of its useful life and is compounded by the hazardous nature of the waste. Many electronics are made up of thousands of different materials and contain an array toxic of substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium or brominated flame retardants. One old TV or computer cathode ray tube (CRT) can contain as much as 3kg of lead3! Once in landfill, these toxic materials seep out into the environment, contaminating land, water, and air.
In New Zealand, most redundant electronic equipment is being landfilled. It is estimated that 300 to 400 million pieces of electronic waste are dumped in New Zealand each year, less than 20% of which is recycled4. While these 80,000 tonnes of waste only account for 2% of the total waste in New Zealand landfills, they account for 70% of the total toxic waste5. The Waste Minimisation Act implemented in 2008 has provision for compulsory product stewardship- although this has not been actioned by the Minister.
Recycling is happening at a local level, where individuals and the Ministry are making huge efforts to keep electronic material out of landfills. Many materials in electronics are of value and can be recycled to make new products. RCN E-cycle, financed by the Ministry for the Environment, is working to make it possible to safely and responsibly recycle electronics in communities across New Zealand. In August, 2011, at the opening of the RCN e-Cycle centre in Wellington, the Environment Minister, Hon. Dr. Nick Smith,announced an additional one-million dollars of funding from the Governments Waste Minimization Fund to be used toward supporting e-waste recycling and bringing awareness of these services and their importance to the public6. Also, organisations such as Remarkit Solutions and Ark Recycling, will take old computers for refurbishment and reuse in schools and charitable organisations. The public can expect a small charge for these services.
Wondering what to do with those old or broken electronics?
RCN e-Cycle: Community Electronics Recycling
The RCN Group (RCN) and Community Recycling Network (CRN) have teamed up with financial support from the Ministry for the Environment to create RCN e-Cycle, New Zealand’s first every day consumer electronic recycling solution. Their focus is on easily accessible and environmentally responsible recycling, zero waste to land fills, promoting on-shore recycling, community involvement, and employment creation. Since November 2010, RCN e-Cycle has been working to establish 20 every day community recycling locations throughout New Zealand. At these locations you can drop off wide array of electronic equipment from MP3 players to washing machines for a small fee. From there, reusable equipment is sent to RCN Group in Auckland for refurbishing while end of life electronics are sent to RCN e-Cycle centers in Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch, other local recycling plants, or ISO accredited international recycling plants.
For more information on RCN e-cycle including full list of what they recycle, prices, and drop off locations, visit: http://www.e-cycle.co.nz/
2 Piermark Drive
P:09 413 8533 Ext 224
F:09 415 8536
E-waste / e-Cycle Manager:
2 Piermark Drive
P:09 413 8533 Ext 220
DDI: 09 282 4084
F:09 415 8536
Be proactive about e-waste:
Inform yourselves of the issues:
Send old computers to organisations for refurbishment or recycling:
Lobby your local council:
- To demand greener, longer lasting products
- To action product stewardship
- To support a ban on electronic waste to landfill
- To enforce no inorganic collection of materials that can be recycled (eg. e-waste and cardboard)
Cathode Ray Tubes and Going Digital in 2012
It has been estimated that there are ten million cathode ray tubes currently in use or stored awaiting a disposal option in New Zealand. Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) found inside TV monitors and computers that produce images we see when looking at the screen. They are especially hazardous to the environment because they are difficult to recycle and are made with toxic substances such as lead, barium, cadmium, mercury and arsenic, In fact, one CRT computer monitor can contain as much as 3kg of lead1.
With the switch over to digital television in New Zealand in 2012, it is projected that nearly 400,000 old TVs will be discarded for new digital ones2. Because of the hazardous nature of CRTs, it is important that they diverted from landfills.
Luckily, CRT’s can be recycled for a small fee by bringing them to your nearest RCN e-cycle location (e-cycle.co.nz) and other outlets. There, there they are split in two, front and back. The front contains very little lead so it is sent to a glass recycler in New Zealand. The back part, called the cone, where most of the lead and toxic materials are located is sent to larger recycling plants overseas where they can be used to make new CRT products3.
Circuit board recycling, the new gold mining
Recycling resources in a verified and responsible way
Bendigo Central Otago was the home of gold mining in New Zealand in the 1880’s. These days, tiny amounts of gold and other elements are used in the construction of circuit boards. The gold is now gone from the hills of Otago so we are now recycling these resources by collecting used circuit boards. These circuit boards will be shipped with complete provenance to ISO 14001 accredited refinery in Japan to be re-refined using some of the best process in the world. Then the metals can be used again.
Circuit boards are found in all electronic products. They are in remotes, toothbrushes, mobile phones, servers, desktops and laptops to name a few. Circuit Boards found in electronic appliances contain very small amounts of metals such as gold, silver, copper, and palladium, which can be re-refined in high tech Japanese refineries and then re-used in new products.
Circuit boards traveling to Japan for re-refining in high tech refineries can be tracked from New Zealand to the port of entry in Japan using GPS. From there they continue to be tracked, traced and audited within Japan using radio frequency tags (RFIP) all the way to the refinery. The tags (see below) are attached to each box of circuit boards before leaving New Zealand so you can be sure of responsible recycling. Furthermore, for each 300kg of circuit boards, the refinery will send a report showing what kinds and how much metal is recovered.
In accordance with the Basel Agreement about the export of toxic waste, the only part of electronics sent overseas to this refinery in Japan are the circuit boards. This is true recycling- the metals recovered will be used again in the electronics industry. This unique system gives total confidence that New Zealand circuit boards are reaching the intended destination.
Updated September 2011