Councils call for prepay e-waste scheme

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2013
Recycling TVs
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

SWITCHED OFF: Old television sets are recycled by RCN e-Cycle in Seaview. Councils believe people are put off recycling electronic goods by the cost of dumping them.

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Councils in Wellington are calling on the Government to introduce a recycling scheme for electronic goods that could push up the cost of gadgets for consumers.

Greater Wellington regional councillor Paul Bruce is seeking support from the local government sector to lobby for a scheme where the price of recycling electronics is imposed on producers and importers.

Such a system is expected to push up the price of large products such as televisions by about $20.

He already has the support of five of the region's councils, and Wellington City Council will vote tomorrow whether to support the plan, which would go to Local Government New Zealand for backing in July.

If supported, the sector would then lobby the Ministry for the Environment to introduce a national scheme.

Similar programmes have already been introduced in 27 of the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, including Australia, whose scheme kicked in last year.

In a report to a Wellington City Council committee, officers recommend supporting Mr Bruce's proposal, saying that a national scheme would "measurably improve the rates of recycling".

At present, householders and businesses must pay to dump unwanted electronic goods. Prices vary, but are about $20 for televisions and computer monitors, rising to almost $70 for photocopiers. As a result, only about 20 per cent of e-waste is recycled.

Mr Bruce's scheme aims to increase this level by imposing the cost at the time of purchase.

"Specifically, individual customers would not be faced with a payment to recycle e-waste at the end of the process," the council officers' report says.

Importers and manufacturers would have to provide the means for customers to recycle the products. Assuming they passed those costs on to consumers, this would add about $20 to the price of a TV.

Although consumers might not like having to pay extra for products, they had to pay for it at some stage, Mr Bruce said.

"When you add it to a $500 item it's not going to be too significant ... The best way to do it is to pay for it right at the beginning."

Similar systems were already in place for products such as tyres, he said.

About 80,000 tonnes of e-waste go into New Zealand landfills every year, making up 2 per cent of waste, but 70 per cent of toxic waste.

Although voluntary schemes helped, such as e-days for free recycling and takeback schemes for old televisions and mobile phones, Mr Bruce called for a national approach to dealing with e-waste.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said the Government had invested more than $15 million towards e-waste recycling since 2008. It was running the TV TakeBack programme for televisions, and longer-term solutions to e-waste would be investigated.

"I have asked the Environment Ministry to investigate more permanent solutions for New Zealand's electronic waste so we have the capacity to collect and recycle all year round.

"I expect to be in a position to advance this work later this year."

Ngaire Best, Wellington City Council's waste portfolio leader, said supporting the lobbying move was in keeping with the council's position on waste management.

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"This really is just one step in the right direction towards actually getting ... manufacturers to take responsibility."

HOW TO RECYCLE ELECTRONICS

There are several places around Wellington that recycle e-waste, including RCN e-Cycle and ITRecycler in Lower Hutt, Porirua's Trash Palace, Remarkit and the Sustainability Trust in Wellington, and Earthlink in Upper Hutt.

Charges vary depending on the size of items, but are about $20 for items such as televisions and computer monitors. Bigger items such as photocopiers can attract charges of up to $69.

There are also free schemes in some regions, including the TV TakeBack scheme run by the Ministry for the Environment, and mobile phone takebacks, such as the one provided by Vodafone.

- The Dominion Post

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