The hidden epidemic facing the New Zealand waste industry
Electronic waste (E-waste) is a sleeping beast. It has yet to be regulated, addressed or supported within the New Zealand waste industry, and there is absolutely no legislation supported nor endorsed by the government to address the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the world.
E-waste comes in many shapes and sizes, from computers, laptops, and phones, to household appliances – basically, anything with a cable or a circuit can be considered E-waste. In the technological age that we live in and the speed in which we replace and dispose of these sorts of items, it’s no surprise that E-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste industries in New Zealand. Around 98,000 tonnes of E-waste is estimated to be disposed of every year within New Zealand and is growing up to three times faster than any other waste stream in the country.
According to a recent case study in the Whangarei district, as much as 98% of E-waste ends up in landfill,the repercussions from this sort of mismanagement of waste can be deadly for our green environment, as electronic waste harbours many toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead.
These types of heavy metals can cause permanent damage to our soil and water supply, making it unsuitable for growing crops and drinking. There is no positive in the continued dumping of E-waste and will only continue to perpetuate a massive environmental problem that future generations will have to tackle.
While E-waste does contain many dangerous and potentially toxic materials, it also contains highly valuable metals such as gold, silver and steel. It is estimated that 1 Tonne of E-waste can contain as much as 400 kg of steel, 250 kg of plastic, 90 kg of non-ferrous metals and even 1.5g of gold and 15g of silver. With the correct handling and facilities it can be processed and recycled efficiently, which is not only good for our environment but can be potentially profitable as well.
Action must be taken to turn E-waste into an officially recognised and centrally governed New Zealand waste industry. Compliance, monitoring and reporting must be compulsory so that we can better control how effectively electronic waste is controlled in New Zealand. We are not reinventing the wheel; this is extremely common practice in every other continent in the world.
In the Australian Capital Territory, it has been mandatory to recycle E-waste since 2010. In South Australia and Victoria, the dumping of E-waste has been banned from landfills since 2011 and 2019 respectively. In Norway, 85 percent of all E-waste is recovered and recycled. The fact that New Zealand, with its “Clean and Green” image is not only so far behind, but wilfully neglectful of the damages we’re causing to our own environment in comparison to many other developed nations is shameful.
Action must be taken; the New Zealand Government must support change and regulation in the electronic waste industry. Alternatives to landfill must be encouraged or made mandatory. Many conscious Kiwis are already making the effort, but voluntary action can only do so much with an issue that is snowballing at such a fast pace.
A better future for all has to start today
Join us in saying: enough is enough. Sign the petition to get e-waste banned from landfill Here. Collectively, we can send a message that Kiwis DEMAND that action be taken, and support change in order to keep our country clean, green and safe for our future generations to come.