Whats happening

e-waste, what is it & where does it go?

Kia ora Raglan, let’s wrap our heads around e-waste. We wanted to explain why we have charges for drop offs. Why it’s important to recycle e-waste, and what happens to it? Where does it go?  

E-waste is a rapidly growing waste stream due to the swift introduction of new technologies. This growth is extra concerning because of all the toxic components. Computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices can contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. The plastic casing and wiring of computer equipment can also contain hazardous materials, such as brominated flame retardants (a neuro-toxin!). If this waste is not-recycled and sent to a landfill there is a risk that hazardous substances will mix with liquids, making pollutant leachate, and head straight into waterways, soils, and the food chain. 

Aside from the toxins, e-waste items have reusable metals and resources that can be reused instead of discarded. Instead of mining for more precious metals, producers and manufacturers can source recycled resources. More than just recycling, we hope for a future with more opportunities to get things repaired instead of replaced.  

So you’ve got an old TV. If it works fine, and you just upgraded, we recommend passing it on to whanau and friends, or selling it on the local noticeboard. We don’t have the capacity to test electricals to see if they work perfectly fine, so there is a charge for all electrical appliances drop offs on site (with the exception for small items like irons, radios, kitchen mixers etc that we sell in Kaahu’s nest. We can test the cords but not the entire item for safety and function).

When someone brings up their old Flatscreen TV it costs $28.75 to drop it off at Kaahu’s Nest. We collect it, record it, store it with other e-waste items and once a month we transport a pallet load to E-cycle NZ. We pay them for receiving that TV. Their team safely deconstructs it and sends the resources to reputable recyclers on shore and internationally.  

Jon from E-cycle NZ shared with us the main components broken down from a TV 

  • Plastic outer and TV stands are often unfortunately non-recyclable and must go into landfill.  

  • Power cables – PVC is stripped off using machinery and then chipped to be re-used as a raw material. Copper is melted down and shaped into an ingot which hardens so you have copper to re-use as a raw material. Various options to do this in New Zealand.  

  • Circuit boards – lower grade circuit boards are shredded in our warehouse and sent to Japan for extraction of lower value metals e.g. aluminium, steel and higher value copper which are converted back into their original state once separated out using screens. Higher value circuit boards are also sent to Japan where they undergo a chemical extraction process in a large smelter. The precious metals extracted are gold, silver and palladium. These are melted down and transformed into ignots for re-use as raw materials 

  • Metal backing of TV – We send to NZ metal recyclers as clean light gauge steel. They usually bale (compact) this and export overseas to be melted down in furnaces (which removes impurities) and is then converted back into its original material format. The same applies for aluminium and some other metals. These metals can be recycled indefinitely. 

  • Screens – We have options with two other recyclers to send these to Singapore or South Korea, where they can repair and re-use the screens or parts thereof. 

  • Batteries – From remote controls are sorted into their chemistry type e.g. alkaline or lithium ion and are exported to Australia where they are shredded or hammer milled to extract the metals and mixed metal dust. Materials such as aluminium, copper and cobalt are removed from the batteries and converted back into raw materials. Approx. 95% of the batteries are recycled and approx. 60% of the materials are re-used in manufacturing new batteries. 

Thankfully e-waste is one of the six priority products for Aotearoa’s Product Stewardship programme named last year by the Government (alongside tyres, refrigerants, farm chemicals & containment, and plastic packaging). This shows some timely progress towards manufacturers taking responsibility for an items’ end of life, like we already see in the cellphone industry free take-back programmes. And moving towards more circular economies.

Happy Returns. A proposed model for container deposit scheme for Aotearoa.

For now, please don’t get upset at our shop staff around our prices for disposing of your old technology. Please understand that we are constantly trying to find the best homes for items, constantly trying to find reputable recyclers to work with, and constantly trying to provide more opportunities for the Raglan community to divert items from landfill. A world with no waste is our vision!  

Any questions, send us an email or a direct message (DM) on our socials. We are always happy to hear from you and to help.  

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