South Port taking steps to combat e-waste issue

South Port IT co-ordinator Dylan von Sommaruga with some devices refurbished to be donated to the community.

Robyn Edie

South Port IT co-ordinator Dylan von Sommaruga with some devices refurbished to be donated to the community.

In his decade in IT, Dylan von Sommaruga has always been irked by the amount of electronic waste that goes to landfill.

“They’re [IT equipment] replaced fairly often, every three to four years … and there’s no real easy way to dispose of them.”

It is estimated about 80,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated in New Zealand each year, with only 2% of that being recycled.

So when he came on board as South Port’s IT co-ordinator in September, he decided to do his part to combat it.

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Von Sommaruga has spent hundreds of hours going through three or four years of accumulated technology to refurbish it to be upcycled or recycled.

He’s partnered with RemarkIT and Digital Wings New Zealand, so the technology can either make its way to a community organisation, or have valuable assets such as gold, cobalt and copper retrieved from it.

“It took one to three hours per computer. I’ve just been working away on it in the background … It’s been quite an effort,” he said.

eDay’s once existed to dispose of electronic waste for free, but a lack of central government funding made them defunct in 2011, leaving no real cost-effective alternative, von Sommaruga said.

That’s not to say there isn’t demand for e-waste recycling.

Last year, TechCollect NZ partnered with The Warehouse Group to trial a free e-waste disposal program, collecting more than 43,000kg of e-waste between April and mid-November.

Warehouse Group chief sustainability officer David Benattar said 1558kg of that e-waste was recovered at the Noel Leeming Invercargill store.

It was usually price and access that was the biggest barrier to embracing e-waste recycling, von Sommaruga said, with most e-waste recycling offered in Southland coming at a cost to consumers.

He was hopeful all technology disposed of by South Port would be recycled in the same way going forward.

In July 2020, the Government announced electronic waste as one of its six ‘priority products’ for the establishment of a regulated product stewardship scheme.

The Ministry of Environment is currently working with stakeholders to co-design product stewardship schemes for each priority product group.

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