Safely disposing of electronic waste

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Last Updated : 30 Apr 2021
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There are valuable materials inside of electronics, and New Zealand is developing the capacity to save these items from landfill.

Specialty recyclers are growing their capacity to take electronic waste in New Zealand. There are lots of places that are eager to get your computer or TV screen, refurbish it, and pass it on to a small business, school, or charity in need. They help keep these materials out of landfill, which also lessens the demand for new rare earth materials.

Here are some places in Auckland that take computer waste. For other materials, search by item online.

Computer Recycling is running 30 community electronic waste recycling events this year around Auckland, with the hopes of diverting 300 tonnes of e-waste from landfill. You can drop off items on 8 of May at Red Beach Primary School on the Hibiscus Coast or 15 May at Massey University in Albany.

At a recent collection in Ellerslie, 16,163kg of e-waste was collected. These 900 individual items included 144 printers, 129 small home appliances, 56 flat screen TVs and more than 30 large whiteware appliances.

The need for product stewardship

Around 80,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated every year but only an estimated two per cent of that waste is recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills across the country. The insides of electronics are full of toxic materials. A CRT TV or monitor may contain up to 3kg of lead.

“Voluntary disposal methods are under-resourced and fragmented and rely on individuals to know what to do with their unwanted items,” says Parul Sood, General Manager for Waste Solutions.

“Product stewardship is when the manufacturer takes responsibility for considering the full life cycle of something when they make it, so that the product can be used for as long as possible and recycled at the end of its current function. Auckland Council supports the Ministry for the Environment initiative to create a product stewardship process for electronic waste, with results expected later this year,” explains Parul.

Do not put these items in your bin

“Anything that plugs in really should not go in your kerbside bin. For example, vacuums, toasters, smoke detectors, blenders, and hair dryers are all e-waste and should be taken to a specialised processing location rather than placed in your bin.

“With the rise of technology, we are seeing more fires from Lithium-Ion batteries. When these get compacted in the rubbish or recycling truck, the casing breaks, and the battery mixes with whatever else is in the truck. The same thing can happen with car parts or gas canisters from barbeques,” shares Parul.

Emergency services may be sent to the scene, as it is a health and safety risk for our drivers and the community. There’s disruption to the collection services and the added cost of cleaning up the contaminated materials. The truck needs to go through a full service and check before it can be deployed back in circulation. If the fire is in recycling, the whole load is destroyed, sending around six tonnes of recyclable materials to landfill.

Together we can protect our land and waste nothing.

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