E-waste is a big problem. Photo / File
Most households will have a box or drawer full of cables and unwanted computer equipment gathering dust.
Many people have no idea what to do with these unwanted electronics – termed e-waste – filled with precious metals ripe for recycling.
Wendy Galloway struggled to find somewhere in the Western Bay of Plenty to recycle her defunct printer and ended up taking it to an electronic waste recycling business in Auckland during a trip there.
Galloway didn’t want to pay the fee to dump general waste or drive the one-hour round trip from her home in Ōmokoroa to the transfer station in Mount Maunganui.
She said it was “inconvenient and frustrating” not being able to recycle her printer locally.
“I had that printer for six months before I was told about this e-waste [recycler] in Auckland,” said Galloway.
“People are just dumping [items], whether it’s TVs, laptops, computers, cameras, cellphones; they’re just putting them in the general waste at the tip.
“People get new keyboards, they get new laptops, even printers – it’s cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to buy toner for your printer.”
Most e-waste contains valuable recoverable metals including gold, copper, steel and aluminium that can be recycled to make new products.
However, Tauranga City Council now accepts e-waste at the Te Maunga transfer station for recycling.
While this was too late for Wendy’s printer, she was “really pleased” the service is on offer.
Tauranga City Council sustainability and waste manager Sam Fellows said people can drop off their e-waste for free in designated bins near the bottle recycling area, thanks to a partnership with Computer Recyclers.
“Alternatively, if people are disposing of general rubbish at the same time they can pay the normal gate charge, go through the weighbridge, then dispose of their e-waste in a designated bin in the general waste pit area.”
The cost, plus the need to find a sustainable end-market for e-waste, had prevented the council from accepting these items before, Fellows said.
“Council is always on the lookout for more products we can recycle at our transfer stations where a sustainable end market exists and they will not just end up in landfill.”
Western Bay of Plenty District Council resource recovery and waste team leader Ilze Kruis said its recycling services were not set up to receive e-waste items, because there was a significant cost involved with collection and transport.
Kruis said it had no immediate plans to include e-waste recycling at Western Bay of Plenty facilities but the council “fully supports” the Government’s announcement that e-waste was a priority product for its regulated product stewardship scheme.
“Once this system is up and running, the cost to responsibly recycle products will be built into the purchase cost and there will be a supply chain to take all electronic products back to manufacturers for reuse.”
Other places people can recycle their e-waste are at the Noel Leeming store in Mount Maunganui and Computer Recyclers in Judea.
• Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.