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Nz’s Dirty Little Sustainability Secret::calls For More Action On E-waste Ahead Of Cop26

With COP26 kicking off today there are growing calls from across the country for the Ardern government to fast-track a national e-product stewardship program for New Zealand, the only developed nation on earth without such a scheme.

Mike Toweel, CEO of sustainable in-store display provider VitrineMedia New Zealand, said the average Kiwi generated a staggering 19.2kg of electronic waste, according to the Global E-Waste Monitor Report 2020, almost triple the global average of 7.3kg per capita per year.

To make matters worse, the absence of any sophisticated national approach to the e-waste issue means less than 2% of the 96kt of e-waste New Zealand produces annually is effectively recycled, nine times less than the global average of 17.3%.

“New Zealanders pride themselves on punching above their weight when it comes to tackling tough environmental issues such as climate change and nuclear energy, and rightly so,” said Toweel. “But when it comes to action on the growing issue of e-waste management the Ardern Government has completely dropped the ball.”

“The fact that in 2021 New Zealand is the only country OECD without any national e-waste legislation, policy or regulatory framework in place should be a national disgrace.

“Even Australia, whose commitment to action on environmental issues has been questioned in recent years, implemented a sophisticated Product Stewardship Program more than a decade ago!”

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“The global transition toward a circular economy is what COP26 is all about and waste management and recycling are absolutely integral pieces of this puzzle,” he said. “In the case of New Zealand, inaction from successive governments has left a gaping hole in our sustainable future and we’re left with something more resembling a semi-circular economy.”

With New Zealand’s per capita e-waste generation rate one of the highest on the planet, Toweel also urged the Government to better incentivise business investment in innovative solutions and renewable alternatives to help minimise the amount of e-waste generated in the first place.

“Across the country, businesses great and small understand that sustainable shop fronts are the future of Main Street in a circular national economy and are actively seeking out innovative and sustainable visual merchandising and in-store display solutions,” Toweel said.

“The economy is on the verge of a green retail revolution,” he said. “An effective national approach to the issue must include e-waste minimisation initiatives that incentivise investment in new green technologies, especially by small businesses, to complement a comprehensive stewardship program.”

“VitrineMedia’s in-store display products manufactured from 98% recycled materials, such as water-soluble latex, and are easily recycled themselves, compared to LED screens and monitors which include high levels of toxic metals and harmful chemicals.”

Toweel said the family-owned business’ sustainable display solutions are up to three times cheaper to run and have a product lifespan four times that of LED screens and monitors.

Marty Ritchie from Harcourts Wellington, said VitrineMedia’s sustainable in-store display technology had swept through the real estate industry in recent years as more and more agencies actively looked at more sustainable ways of working.

“Meaningful action to confront climate change and other environmental issues such as e-waste generation and disposal is more crucial than ever,” Ritchie said. “Since the installation of Vitrine’s display screens in our Paremata franchise we’ve seen a 20% increase in walk-in traffic and enjoyed power bills a fraction of what they would have been had we installed LED screens or monitors.”

In another twist on the issue, COVID-19 is adding to the rise of e-waste being generated in NZ across the globe, with the digital transformation of people’s lives spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a dramatic increase in the purchase of electronic devices.

Consumption of game consoles, cell phones, electrical ovens and laptops have increased due to COVID-19, adding 0.3 metric tonnes to the consumption of electronic and electrical equipment, contributing to what is already the fastest growing waste stream in Aotearoa and around the world.

Michael Dudley, Senior Policy Manager for TechCollect NZ (TCNZ), speaking as part of International E-waste Recycling Day, said TCNZ supported International E-Waste Day and is working to promote e-waste recycling and the benefits of building a circular economy.

“Electronic devices have made living with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions more bearable - They have allowed us to continue working from home, home school our children, stay connected with friends and family, shop online as well as streaming our favourite movies, sports and TV shows,” he said.

“The increase in the purchase of these devices, however, will inevitably lead to an increase in the need for their disposal,” said Dudley. “Once your electronic device reaches its end-of-life and all opportunities for reuse have been exhausted, recycling is the next best step in the product’s lifecycle.”


About VitrineMedia New Zealand

VitrineMedia New Zealand is a family-owned and operated business, supporting New Zealand businesses with the most comprehensive range of static backlit LED and digital display solutions, the industry’s best warranties and guarantees and an unsurpassed level of service.

It all started some 10 years back when founder and current CEO Michael Toweel saw an opportunity for businesses to capitalise on what was right in front of them, their physical retail space. He scoured the globe for the best products, his endeavours identifying one standout manufacturer – the French display solutions company VitrineMedia.

Initially a subsidiary of its global parent company, VitrineMedia New Zealand transformed into an independent business in 2019, retaining its global connections while adding its deep local knowledge and understanding of the people and business landscape to provide the best of both world for its customers.


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