Did you know that e-waste is the fastest growing toxic waste stream in New Zealand? Technology such as smartohones, laptops, GPS and other portable devices are becoming more and more integrated into our lives. These tech devices often bring about positive change in our everyday experiences - they’ve created ease and convenience, but they have also created waste.
Currently, the average New Zealander produces more than 20 kilograms of e-waste per year – one of the highest per capita amounts globally – and Aotearoa is the only country in the OECD without a national e-waste scheme. Of the 80,000 tonnes of e-waste created each year, it’s estimated that less than 2 percent of the totalis recycled.
So, as we work towards solutions regarding responsible recycling in Aotearoa – and e-waste’s impact on our environment – let’s take a look at our electronic consumption and how we can reduce our household outgoings.
What is e-waste, and what are the environmental impacts?
E-waste – or electronic waste – is old, unwanted electronic goods that are destined for landfill. E-waste comprises everyday electronics such as phones and laptops, household appliances like microwaves and kettles, and also includes larger machinery such as office printers and car batteries. These electronic devices are made up of a complex mix of materials, which include precious and semi-precious metals such as gold, silver, copper, lithium and platinum. In many instances, e-waste also contains toxic materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium.
Responsibly recycling electronic waste is important for many reasons. The aforementioned precious metals such as copper very commonly in electronic devices. Minimising e-waste helps to conserve these naturally mined resources and reduces the amount of energy we take from the planet. It’s integral that these metals are extracted and re-used from unwanted electronics, as opposed to going to landfill and new metals being mined from the earth’s resources.
Secondly, when incorrectly disposed of, many electronic items will leach hazardous chemicals and and materials into the surrounding land; negatively impacting on the natural environment groundwater supplies and waterways. This has disastrous flow on effects for surrounding flora, wildlife, and citizens in those areas.
So how can I reduce my e-waste?
It’s important for everyone to be mindful of reducing waste in our lives, including electronic waste. Whether this happens in small steps or is a slight change in mindset, every move is a shift in the right direction. Here’s our top tips to becoming more mindful electronic consumers and recyclers.
- Invest in good quality products. Before purchasing a new electronic product such as a laptop or phone, do some research to ensure you’re purchasing a quality item that suits your budget. Products with a longer lifespan ensure that they aren’t being replaced within a few years, or even months.
- Repair if possible. If you have parts or equipment that have seen better days, but just need some TLC, why not take it to a local repairer? Whether it’s a new plug fixture for your hairdryer, or a screen for your laptop, local electronic repairers are able to refurbish items, often at the fraction of the cost of a full replacement.
- Educate yourself and those around you. Learning what precious metals and hazardous substances our personal devices actually contain make us become more mindful of their environmental impact. Having this understand and sharing it with those around you might change your mindset on how quickly we dispose of items. Perhaps it’ll make you delay that next iPhone upgrade for a few months – lengthening the life of your current phone.
- Re-gift unwanted items. Often we find that certain electronics won’t be as relevant to use if we’ve had changes in our work or lifestyle. Re-gifting these items to a friend, neighbour or stranger is a great way to ensure a much-loved item can find a second home and extend its lifetime. Facebook Marketplace and Neighbourly are both great ways to spread the word that you have unwanted items that a member of your community might need, otherwise take a visit to your local Op Shop.
- Lastly, recycle. Instead of putting your laptop, kettle or old phone in your curbside rubbish bin, responsibly recycle it through an accredited e-waste processing facility like Computer Recycling Ltd.
To recycle your items with Computer Recycling, drop your unwanted e-waste to one of our three North Island locations. Alternatively, we run community collection days – making it even easier to ensure your items are being responsibly recycled or refurbished. Learn more about our e-waste community collection days here.