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Kiwis Keen to Recycle E-Waste
Craig Neilson, 2 Oct 07
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A community initiative to recycle computers and raise awareness of the hazardous nature of electronic waste is being hailed as a success after bringing in hundreds of tonnes of high-tech recyclables on the weekend.

National eDay simply called for New Zealand households to bring unwanted electronic equipment to one of 12 collection centers across the country.

E-waste is the fastest growing form of hazardous waste being sent to land-fills, but it can pose a serious threat to health and the environment with toxic materials like cadmium, lead and mercury seeping in to soils and water-ways. The new recycling process that will be used on non-functional equipment collected on eDay won't just dispose of waste, it will transform it into a resource for use in new goods ranging from fence posts to shipping pellets.

Over two days, nearly seven thousand vehicles delivered 6088 functional monitors, 6440 desktop units, 2814 non-functional monitors and 5355 other computing items to collection centers. The total weight of hazardous waste diverted from land-fills is estimated to be around three hundred tonnes (full stats).

Upon arrival at the Manukau City collection center, the eDay team surveyed what participants had brought and asked who they thought should be responsible for recycling e-waste (consumers, retailers, manufacturers, or government? We said that everyone had a part to play). Survey data was analysed as the day progressed, along with a live tally of collection statistics. In the hour we spent observing, the center collected 97 printers, 19 scanners, 121 desktop units, 124 monitors, 51 cellphones and 87 other electronic bits and bobs. We sighted a classic Apple Macintosh, a Gravis Gamepad and a milkshake maker among the piles of keyboards and ball mice.

The Titirangi and Waiaturua volunteer fire brigades unloaded cars and piled obsolete equipment in to bins. From there, community volunteers dragged the bins in to a stadium, sorted their contents further and lovingly stacked pellets and cardboard boxes ready for transport.

National eDay coordinator Laurence Zwimpfer explained that desktop units would be shipped to Singapore and have 97 percent of their materials factory-extracted for re-use. Functional monitors are shipped to Australia where they are re-furbished then sent to Korea to continue their life as computer monitors.

On Auckland's North Shore, non-functional monitors are treated by a machine invented by Rose Engineering contrived to divide lead-bearing glass from the rest of the glass in cathode ray tubes (CRT). The glass sections divided by this machine can be recycled as clean glass and the lead sections are exported to a lead smelter. The remaining parts of the monitors are disassembled by workers with disabilities and also recycled.

More than fifty government and business sponsors paid for the NZ $400,000 eDay event including Computer Access New Zealand, the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Education, 10 local councils, Dell, Acer, Divers Group and Tes-Amm (full list). The organisers hope to make eDay an annual event and expect the collection weights to increase each year.

"Following this weekend's success we're keen to support additional communities who want to get involved next year. A number of regions have already expressed interest." said Mr. Zwimpfer.

"I think we've helped raise New Zealand's awareness of the dangers of dumping electronic waste in landfill. That was one of our key aims and we're really happy with the result."

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