eCycle at Wanaka WastebustersWanaka has loved recycling for 10 years. Now we love e-cycling too – with Wanaka Wastebusters becoming an official e-Cycle depot, only the second in the South Island. By June 2012, the nationwide project expects to have 20 depots up and running.

The biggest change is that we can now recycle televisions. That’s great when you think that a small television contains over 3 kg of lead. We also take computers and networking equipment. There is a charge to cover costs of safe recycling. One of the questions we’re often asked is where electronic waste goes to be recycled.

That’s what we see as one of the biggest benefits of being part of a nationwide scheme. We have a partner, RCN, who can ensure that the recycling is done safely and responsibly – and it’s much easier for them to check up on off-shore factories than for 20 separate recycling centres to do it.

RCN are committed to recycling as much as possible (cabling, metals and unleaded glass) in New Zealand. A substantial part of the electronic waste we collect has to be sent overseas for recycling, including lead glass from monitors, plastic, batteries, circuit boards. They go to factories in Australia, Singapore, Japan and China.

Members of the RCN team have visited the off-shore factories, and report that their working conditions are of a high standard, and that they are ISO 14001 accredited and meet international regulations to minimise environmental harm. That’s really important to us, because we don’t want the electronic waste we collect to end up on a toxic, smoking heap which is harmful to workers and the environment.

Safe and responsible recycling of e-waste does cost money, so RCN have set charges to cover costs. The feedback we’ve had from people has been mostly positive, with about 90 percent of people happy to pay once they understand the reasons behind the charges. The most expensive items to recycle are old computer monitors ($16) and TVs ($23), because they are costly to transport. TVs contain very little material of value to recover and offset against the recycling and transport costs.

In the long run, we would support the costs of recycling being met by the companies who make computers, TVs and other electronic appliances. It seems only sensible that the people who make the money should cover the costs of safe and responsible recycling. Recycling costs should be included one of the costs of production, instead of being transferred to the consumer. Wanaka Wastebusters would support a product stewardship scheme for electronic waste, to encourage producer responsibility in the electronics industry.

A quick word about cell-phones. We are continuing to recycle cell-phones for free and donate them to the Starship Hospital programme. Where possible they are refurbished and sold to raise money for Starship Hospital, otherwise they are recycled.