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For a rising tide of WEEE, The End of Life is near

End of Life is near for five million says NZ Eco trust

ASCI to ashes, DOS to Dust

Diverting WEEE from waste (waste electronic and electrical equipment)

What on earth will be the effect of your favourite operating system as it is finally consigned to the eco afterlife? It’s a question that might come from the recent sci-fi movie “Her”, however in reality it is a question that today’s users of IT equipment should be asking themselves as they prepare to farewell their ageing gadgets. Until now, New Zealand has not had a locally-based, trusted certification to help consumers and businesses decide who should dispose of their IT equipment, taking full account of its earthly legacy. Now, in the face of rising WEEE (waste electronic and electrical equipment), the country’s eco-label, Environmental Choice, is coming to the rescue.

The NZ Ecolabelling Trust is asking equipment users to virtually make a will for their PC, cellphone, television, or other electronic device before it shuffles off its transformer coil, by choosing a responsible e-undertaker. Candidate companies will be able to undergo assessment of their practices, including the complete disposal chain, and if passed they can display the Environmental Choice certification showing that IT in their care is recycled or retired in peace. The chillingly named “End of Life” standard (ICT) for Environmental Choice is open for submission until mid April, after which time a scheme will be set in stone to bring closure to those who want certainty about the environmental life-after-death of their I.T. equipment.

The Ministry for the Environment says e-waste (WEEE) is the fastest growing type of city waste in the world, but it’s also a resource from which to recover valuable resources. Desktop and notebook computers alone in New Zealand accounted for five million sales between 1994 and 2007, and many of these will be on their last legs.

The general manger of the government-owned eco-label, Robin Taylor, says the death of a device is a serious business. “Arsenic, asbestos, chlorine, cobalt, lead and mercury are just a few of the damaging substances that may be in electronic waste. It is not just computers but discarded smoke detectors, phones, toasters, clocks, EFTPOS machines, routers and web cameras, and even the humble mouse. The leaching of these materials into the environment is absolutely toxic to planet and people. We are talking cancer, spleen, liver and heart damage. Without controlled disposal and verified chain of custody during removal, recycling or destruction, this mounting e-waste has the potential to be a major human health hazard and to burden or poison the environment at some point.”

Environmental Choice has worked to form a draft standard which should be achievable for IT disposers and recyclers, and be effective in defining an environmentally better bereavement for gadgets past their use-by date. This has been posted publically on the Environmental Choice website, and the opportunity to comment on it expires on 14 April. Suggested changes will then be examined by an independent panel of scientific experts before the new standard is sealed up. Then New Zealand will have an answer to that age-old question - at least in terms of I.T. - about that final journey and the end of life-cycle.

(Ends. 5 March 2014.)

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