Many of the Zero Waste community will be all too aware of the mountains of e-waste piling up around the country. E-waste covers anything with a battery or a plug – so it will come as little surprise that New Zealand generates 98,000 tonnes a year, or roughly 21kgs for every person in the country!
Attempts to declare it a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act have been hampered by the government’s demand for research and evidence of the scale of the problem. Fortunately, Vicktoria Blake, from Massey University has just done a case study of the situation in Whangārei that will serve to show just how urgent the issue is.
New Zealand’s official rate of collection of e-waste is ZERO. Vicktoria’s study found that rate for Whangārei to be about 1.8% representing the small number of items and materials that are recycled. This is in stark contrast to Northern Europe where recovery rates are at 49%, and this shows us what is possible when product stewardship is mandatory. As Vicktoria says, “This would mean that the producers have extended responsibility to deal with the things they are putting into our environment.”
The componentry of e-waste presents particularly toxic problems: lead, mercury and cadmium are endocrine disruptors. These interfere with our endocrine system, and can cause cancer, brain damage, kidney failure, and nervous system damage. They can contaminate the soil and end up in our food.
Members Take Action
It would be great to focus some of our energy on this issue. Vicktoria has sent her research to Ministers Eugenie Sage and David Parker, so now is a good time to follow up with an email to them urging them to declare e-waste a priority product. You can reach them on: Eugenie.firstname.lastname@example.org and David.Parker@parliament.govt.nz
Our new member, the South Waikato Achievement Trust (see their profile in this newsletter) has been working in this space for quite a few years, and produced this video to talk about the work they are doing on e-waste. Check it out!
Here at the Zero Waste Network, we would be keen to hear any of your e-waste stories or ideas. Thanks!