Funding delay puts eDay in doubt

Funding delay puts eDay in doubt

This year's national electronic waste disposal event eDay is "not set in stone" despite a funding pledge from Environment Minister Nick Smith, its organiser says.

About 16000 New Zealanders donated apprximately 1000 tonnes of old computers and mobile phones for eDay last year.

The Environment Ministry rejected an initial application for $1.5 million for this year's event, but Dr Smith quickly backpedalled and announced funding would be available at a national level for the event.

Computer Access New Zealand Trust chairman Laurence Zwimpfer says it has been invited to resubmit an application to the ministry and, though he is optimistic, there are no guarantees eDay will go ahead this year.

The ministry donated $200,000 to the previous two eDays, but the trust would likely seek about $750,000 this year – to reflect increased recycling and regulation costs. "If we come in and need two or three times [$200,000] then the minister might have to think again, I don't know."

The original application for $1.5 million reflected the total expected cost of this year's scheme, but more than half the event's cost is typically covered by "in kind" contributions of services and labour from businesses, councils and communities.

Any major delays in reviewing the application could push this year's eDay into next year, he says. "If it takes them two months to come back to us, then we're not talking this year. We'd just run out of time."

The Ministry was concerned eDay was not evolving into a longer-term electronic waste solution and is seeking suggestions from the trust, he says.

One solution could be to have recycling firms, such as Earthlink in Upper Hutt, collect electronic hardware and either refurbish it for resale or break it down into parts.

Some material would still need to be exported for processing, but it would drastically reduce the amount of material shipped overseas.

"The solution is let's process what we can in New Zealand and export what we can't, rather than export the whole lot."

Some manufacturers have also indicated they were willing to recycle their own gear, he says.

"That would deal with 60 to 70 percent of the equipment we collect."

The Ministry is seeking assurances the trust will put measures in place to ensure its contractors behave responsibly, after CRT NZ – the company tasked with exporting waste from last year's eDay – admitted eight charges of attempting to export hazardous waste without the appropriate permits. Its director, Alex Hong, will be sentenced next month.

Zwimpfer says it is looking to partner with several contractors in future, rather than just one.

Ministry spokesman Peter Fitzjohn says its Waste Minimisation Fund will support eDay this year and it is awaiting the trust's application. Its initial application was rejected because it did not meet certain criteria, he says. The ministry received $55 million worth of applications for the $6 million fund.

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