NZ looks to manufacturers to help tackle e-waste

The New Zealand government is considering introducing a scheme similar to Australia’s National Computer and Television Recycling Scheme, according to chief executive of the Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform, Carmel Dollison.

Ms Dollison said the government had commissioned a review of what is happening in the e-waste stream, with the aim of identifying the priority products for recycling. The ANZRP participated in the review.

She said the outcomes would help inform the government’s decision around what type of product stewardship program should be run, whether it would be a mandatory scheme like the NCTRS, potentially funded through a levy on purchases; a co-regulatory scheme where responsibility is shared; or a voluntary scheme.

“The recommendations have gone to the ministry and they will hopefully come through with a program soon,” Ms Dollison said.

“In the interim there are a number of manufacturers that do run e-waste take-back programs [in New Zealand].”

These companies include Apple, Dell, HP and Fuji Xerox, which operates the only NZ government-accredited IT product stewardship scheme. The manufacturer’s Zero Landfill scheme was formally accredited last month under the Waste Minimisation Act.

“The Zero Landfill scheme from Fuji Xerox is a great example of how forward-thinking businesses can manage and mitigate their impact through proactive product stewardship,” NZ Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said.

“The scheme aims to recycle and reuse an estimate 99.5 per cent of Fuji Xerox equipment and products – including printers, copiers, toner bottles, print cartridges, drums, rollers and fuser oil, and packaging –  resulting in approximately 1200 tonnes being diverted from landfill each year.”

Dr Smith said that over 80 per cent of the equipment and products the firm recycled and reused was collected from customers via product trade-ins, and then sent to warehouses in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch for assessment before being reused or recycled.

“Fuji Xerox’s initiative is the second e-waste initiative to receive accreditation, and demonstrates that it is possible for global electronic corporates to voluntarily take responsibility for the impacts of their products in a way that provides benefits for the environment, and also stacks up commercially,” Dr Smith said.

The other e-waste product covered by an accredited stewardship scheme under the Act is mobile phones and their batteries through the Re: Mobile scheme, which operates similarly to Australia’s Mobile Muster.

Currently NZ has no mandatory product stewardship schemes. There are a total of 13 accredited voluntary take-back schemes currently in operation covering products including milk packaging, glass bottles, oil, refrigerants, agricultural plastic wraps and films, sanitary products, Resene Paints and Interface PVC-backed carpet tiles.

In the case of refrigerants, the Trust for the Destruction of Synthetic Refrigerants (also known as RECOVERY) collects used refrigerants from the airconditioning and refrigeration industries before sending them to Australia for destruction.

Waste management and reducing waste to landfill is one of the sustainability fronts New Zealand firms are most active on, according to a recent Waikato University study, Sustainability on Hold: Business vs Government Leadership 2003-2014, by Associate Professor Eva Collins and Professor Juliet Roper.

Many of the firms surveyed identified an immediate financial benefit to waste management strategies in terms of reduced landfill fees, and 84 per cent of firms had implemented recycling and 38 per cent had set waste targets.

The Fifth Estate contacted the NZ Ministry of Environment for comment, but the call was not returned before deadline.

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