Bulk of e-waste going to landfill

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 29/09/2012

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Only about 1 per cent of unwanted TVs and other e-waste is being recycled through a government-backed scheme, with the bulk being dumped in landfills or disposed of illegally.

The estimate was provided by national recycler RCN on the eve of the closure of analogue television transmissions in Hawke's Bay and the West Coast, which could lead to more old TVs being dumped.

RCN has received $1.4 million from the Government to set up a network of more than 50 e-waste drop-off points and three recycling centres.

However, a $20 charge for recycling cathode-ray televisions and a $14 charge for bulky computer monitors - another problematic e-waste item - had led many people to seek less environmentally friendly ways of disposing of waste, RCN e-waste general manager Jon Thornhill said.

E-waste campaigner Laurence Zwimpfer has said it is unrealistic to expect consumers to pay for recycling if they can chuck e-waste into a landfill for roughly a 10th of the cost.

Zwimpfer helped set up the now-defunct annual eDay where people could leave computers for free recycling at temporary collection points.

Thornhill said it was estimated in 2006 that New Zealanders disposed of 80,000 tonnes of e-waste each year.

RCN had collected about 400 tonnes between September and June through its government-backed scheme, though volumes had since risen to about 60 tonnes a month.

Thornhill said the charges and the fact people could cheaply dump old TVs and other e-waste in landfills did not help, though public awareness was also an issue.

He acknowledged there were other recycling companies offering lower charges than RCN in the main centres but said the fact RCN offered drop-off points needed to be considered when comparing its fees.

"In Queenstown, Invercargill or Kaitaia it is a very different story." RCN had national pricing "to keep it consistent".

There were also fly-by-night operators who accepted e-waste for free, stripped it of valuable components and illegally dumped or exported the rest, he said.

While New Zealand was behind other countries in tackling e-waste, Thornhill believed it was moving in the right direction.

"It is not like we are behind and doing nothing."

Thornhill believed there should be mandatory "product stewardship" schemes that forced manufacturers to take back and recycle e-waste.

This week in Auckland, recycler Abilities Group launched the country's first United Nations-approved technology for recycling old TV tubes.

The tubes can now be safely harvested of their component parts. Fairfax NZ

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