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New Zealand’s Waste Minimisation Fund to invest in tech solutions to reduce e-waste

New Zealand’s Waste Minimisation Fund to invest in tech solutions to reduce e-waste

New Zealand’s Associate
Environment Minister Eugenie Sage has announced on 28th May that funding for
e-waste recycling will increase via a grant from the New Zealand government’s
Waste Minimisation Fund (WMF).

According to a press release by the New Zealand government,  the increased funding will primarily be used
by Auckland-based Mint Innovation to conduct a technical feasibility study for
deploying waste recovery technology in the country.

The announcement comes as New
Zealand seeks to increase momentum on a national push towards transforming the
country’s economy into a “circular economy” where manufactured products and consumed
items are designed to be reusable, recyclable or biodegradable. 

“This project shows that there are solutions to really tough waste
problems,”
said Minister Sage, who declared that tackling the
growing problem of e-waste was one of her key priorities. 

“Heavy metals and toxic chemicals (from e-waste) can leach from landfills
into soil and waterways, harming aquatic life and posing a threat to human
health.”

Established in 2009, the WMF is funded by a levy of 10 New Zealand
Dollars per tonne charge on waste going into the country’s landfills; the WMF
is intended to  “boost New Zealand’s performance
in waste minimisation” by “recovering economic value from waste: and reduce the
environmental hazard posed by e-waste, as well as accrue social and cultural
benefits
. The WMF only funds waste
minimisation projects that not only expand the existing coverage of waste
minimisation activities, but also include an educational aspect to promote
waste minimisation.

Founded in 2016, Mint Innovation employs proprietary bio-metallurgy processes for metal recovery. The company has recently collaborated with major New Zealand e-waste
recycler Remarkit to “build a plant to demonstrate Mint's biometallurgy
technology at a practical scale”.

As the fastest-growing source of waste in developed countries worldwide,
the amount of e-waste generated globally is set to increase at a significant
rate, raising concerns over toxic e-waste components leaking heavy metals such
as cadmium, lead and mercury as well as other environmentally hazardous
substances into the environment.

According to estimates by the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment,
New Zealand disposes nearly 80 000 tonnes of e-waste annually (from Final
Report on E-waste Product Stewardship Framework for New Zealand). The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, a new assessment on global e-waste
policies and statistics published by the International Telecommunications Union
(ITU), had earlier highlighted that global e-waste had rise 8% in weight, with
just 20% being recycled.
 In the same assessment, the ITU also singled
out New Zealand as not only one of the world’s largest generators of e-waste,
but also, as of 2017, the only OECD country without any national regulations on
the issue.

“[A sector-wide product stewardship scheme] is effective in all OECD
countries except New Zealand”, said eDay NZ Trust Chairman Laurence Zwimpfer in a press release. A community
initiative that has advocated for e-waste awareness and minimisation since
2006, eDay NZ Trust has pointed out the lack of “ industry-led product stewardship schemes with regulatory support from
government” in New Zealand as the main reason why the country’s campaign against
e-waste has been ineffective. 

At present, the only product stewardship scheme
that caters to e-waste is the nationwide RE:MOBILE programme — supported by the country’s major
telecoms providers, the programme only targets e-waste generated from mobile
phones.

As pointed out by Minister Sage in an earlier interview in March, “[New
Zealand] has the Waste Minimisation Act, which is a good piece of law but it's failed to reach its full potential for more product stewardship”. 

The funding
of new tech solutions to minimise e-waste will take New Zealand’s campaign
against e-waste a step forward, spurring the creation of more product
stewardship schemes to drive the country’s e-waste minimisation efforts
forward.

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