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Even more waste...

Even more waste...

A Ministry for the Environment official recently published an article beginning “Waste is a symptom that resources are being used inefficiently”. Interesting view, even if it rather ignores some fundamental biological realities about human beings.

We wonder if he is prepared to practice what he preaches by promising never to go to the toilet again... or if he thinks we should all work towards being nuclear reactors on the e = mc2 basis. Of course, he was talking about a more pressing environmental issue – E-waste, particularly waste IT products.

All jokes aside, as we all know, many waste IT products contain harmful chemicals that can leach out of landfills. Just as important, many IT products contain extremely rare and valuable resources that should not go to waste. It makes sense to recycle

We now have the Ministry’s first waste minimisation consultation document, available at www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/waste/consultation.html. Submissions close on 15 May 2009.

The Ministry hasn’t singled out IT products as an automatic target for a mandatory product stewardship scheme…yet! Instead, it has chosen waste oil, tyres and refrigerant gases, because these products cause significant environmental harm when they become waste.

However, be aware that IT products could be the next cab off the rank as far as mandatory product stewardship is concerned. I have attended some of the recent Ministry consultation meetings about waste minimisation, and I have heard a full range of opinions from people working in a wide range of industries. From what I observed, the vast majority of New Zealanders want something done to recover dead IT equipment more efficiently, and soon. So it is important for you to read the Ministry’s discussion documents and make a submission, because otherwise you risk getting landed with some of the less realistic ideas that I heard in the consultation meetings.

One problem for any scheme will be dealing with ‘legacy’ products, eg all of those defunct PC Direct, Gateway and other boxes around New Zealand that are no longer supported by a brand owner. Why should those still in the industry pay for the waste of others who have left it? One option for legacy product is fully supporting “E-Day” collections. For those of you who haven’t heard, E-days have happened once a year for the past few years, operated by a not-for-profit group.

The E-day collections involve teams of volunteers taking back dead IT equipment from the public at designated sites around the country. The E-day-collected equipment then gets shipped off-shore to a facility that properly processes it. According to www.E-day.org.nz, about 95 percent of materials are recovered from these waste IT products. The beauty of E-day is that it draws out legacy products and gets them to a recovery centre.

E-day has the potential to get bigger, to have more sites around New Zealand, and to have more publicity. What does E-day need? People like you! You can be an E-day sponsor and you can also volunteer your time to help run a collection point near you. Do contact the E-day people.

Back to the Ministry for the Environment’s discussion paper: Product stewardship will affect you and your business in the next few years. Now is your chance to have your say on the government’s proposals by making a submission. Don’t be cynical about whether it is worth the time making submissions — if you have something to say and you make a short, sharp submission covering your key points and presenting solutions, then in this country, your submission will be taken into account.

Richard Anstice is a staff solicitor in Rae Nield’s office. This article is intended for general information, and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice relating to your own specific legal problems. Rae and Richard can be contacted at raenield@marketinglaw.co.nz.


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