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e-Waste levy makes sense says trust

e-Waste levy makes sense says 2020 Communications Trust

The call by the Green Party for an e-waste levy on all new computers is timely, says Laurence Zwimpfer, chairperson of the Computer Access New Zealand Trust (CANZ), the computer recycling arm of the 2020 Communications Trust.

Increasing costs of safely disposing of unusable computers are threatening the viability of our CANZ accredited recyclers, said Mr Zwimpfer.

“CANZ’s mission has been to keep computers in schools and homes rather than landfills, Mr Zwimpfer said.

“We have been accrediting quality recyclers since 1999, and they’ve had an excellent record of successfully refurbishing and extending the life of donated computer equipment from government departments and businesses.

“A few years ago, when new computers cost $3000, recyclers could offer refurbished machines for between $250 and $350. Schools could buy suites of five networked computers with a server, a printer and a scanners for less than the cost of a single new computer.”

Even with the dramatic drop in the price of new computers, CANZ recyclers were still able to offer good prices for the newer computers discarded by government departments and businesses, Mr Zwimpfer said. However, the market for older computers retired in the 1990s had largely disappeared.

This had put recyclers under increasing financial pressure. Under the CANZ code of practice, they had to accept all donated equipment, no matter what condition it was in. Often there was no market for older equipment, and much of it is in a an unusable state.

“Computer monitors are a special challenge,” Mr Zwimpfer said. “They’re very bulky and expensive to transport, but if they’re only fit to be scrapped, there’s no way that can be done in New Zealand – we have no suitable rendering plants. That means recyclers face the added cost of shipping unusable monitors off-shore for safe disposal.

“A $50 e-waste levy to all new computers sold would help greatly,” said Mr Zwimpfer. “It would make little difference to the price of a new computer, but it could really help keep recycled computers affordable.

“We believe such a levy could be administered in a way that does not place a burden of compliance on the computer industry.”

Laurence Zwimpfer said the role of the Computer Access NZ Trust was broadening. “So far we’ve focused on promoting computer refurbishment of computers, to make warranted equipment available to schools and low income families at the lowest possible price. However, we now see a need to take a greater interest in the actual recycling process.

“The importance of computer recycling was recognised in the new national Digital Strategy, and we will we will be t discussing with Government opportunities to establish a proper recycling plant in New Zealand. An e-waste levy would contribute greatly to making this a self-sustaining operation.

The Computer Access New Zealand Trust is a not-for-profit trust established by the 2020 Communications Trust and supported by the Ministry of Education. More information is on the Trust’s website at www.canz.org.nz.

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