Annie Leonard, who brought the world the wonderfully informative animated video called the Story of Stuff has just released a new one on e-waste called the Story of Electronics. Again she has researched how e-waste is produced in the first place, the design elements that need to be changed and the problems with how e-waste is disposed of. E-waste is “designed for the dump” she says. Although the videos have an American focus they are still relevant to New Zealanders. We import tonnes of electronic goods each year that all have been designed with relatively short lives (due, mostly, to new product coming in all the time) and dispose of approximately 80,000 tonnes to landfill each year. 80,000 tonnes! Think of what happens to the toxins and heavy metals contained in the those items while they sit in a landfill.
The New Zealand government has recently announced funding from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund into two key e-waste collection programmes. The first one was e-Day held last Saturday around the country. They received $750,000 to hold e-Day at 40 locations around New Zealand and for the first year I heard and saw advertising. And this helped. This year’s e-Day was a success with around 900 tonnes of e-waste (computers and phones) being dropped off (around 110 shipping containers). More here. There were over 17,000 cars and over 76,000 items dropped off. This e-waste will be sent to other countries for proper disposal. New Zealand does not have the facilities to process e-waste on shore. As with other waste streams it is cheaper for it to be sent off shore.
The other project that has received funding from the government is $400,000 to the RCN Group and the Community Recycling Network who are planning to set up a nationwide network of 20 e-waste drop off depots and 3 recycling facilities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This is so e-Day can be everyday!
The solutions that need to come in order to reduce the amount of e-waste that is polluting our environment is to 1) consume less (always #1), 2) businesses to take responsibility for the products that they produce (Product Stewardship Schemes), 3) redesign products with less toxins and longer lives, 4) develop urban mining offshore so that the e-waste can be disposed of safely (and not negatively impacting the environments of other countries) and 5) finding solutions to old e-waste (can it be reused in new ways). There are solutions but we just need to start focussing on using them and building them.
Other relevant blog posts:
You can watch the other Story of Stuff videos here: