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How to dispose of electronics and computers

Disposal of electrical, electronic and computer equipment.

The Ministry for the Environment released the New Zealand Waste Strategy in March of last year. Discarded electronic, electrical and computer equipment is classified as special wastes. There is a target for a pilot programme for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to be in place by December 2005.

At present there is very little recycling of discarded appliances in New Zealand.

There is an increasing trend in other countries to reduce the quantity of appliances being disposed of into landfills.

$1.5 billion dollars worth of appliances were sold in 2001 through the retail channel alone. This is an increase of 58% over the space of a decade. Accurate figures for the total sales of electronic, electrical and computer equipment is not readily available. All this equipment contains hazardous substances. This is predominately lead but other hazardous substances include mercury, cadmium and brominated plastics.

"The target set in the New Zealand Waste Strategy for addressing the issue of electrical waste is too little and too late" says Alan Liefting, an electronics technician "With globalized trade comes globalized waste disposal problems. The need for the recycling of appliances has not kept up with the increasing trade liberalisation, rapid technological growth and reduction in their useful lifetime."

"If manufacturers are made to be responsible for correct disposal or recycling of the goods at the end of their useful life perhaps more durable products may eventuate. This will have positive spin-offs for the environment. It will also reduce the amount of imported goods and may make the repair of appliances more viable."

"At present, the cost of disposal is borne by local councils and therefore the consumer"

"Appliances are part of the throw away society in which we live. They are no longer built to last. Some items are now lasting only as long as the warranty rather than the length of its technology".

References:

Ministry for the Environment - Waste Strategy: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/waste/waste-strategy-mar02/index.html

New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development - EPR story: http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/story.asp?StoryID=13

Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste: http://www.basel.int/

Basel Action Network - hazards of electrical waste exporting: http://www.ban.org/

Zero Waste New Zealand: http://www.zerowaste.co.nz/

Friends of the Earth (Australia) http://sydney.foe.org.au/SustainableConsumption/epr_pamphlets/info_tech.html

European Commission press release on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE): http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=IP/00/602|0|RAPID&lg=EN (or http://tinyurl.com/8k8f)

Statistics NZ http://www.stats.govt.nz

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