Concern that the proposed e–waste bill will bring supplies of IT products into New Zealand to a halt, is ludicrous, says the author of the legislation – Green Party MP Nándor Tánczos. In an opinion column in the February 22 issue of Reseller News, solicitor Rae Nield warned that unless the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill is not carefully carried through it could result in manufacturers not bringing their products into the country. Nield wrote that the bill, which aims to deal with waste from electronic equipment, or e-waste, such as computers, monitors and printers, has “the potential to bring supplies of IT products into New Zealand to a halt” if it makes it too hard for manufactures to sell their products here. “The total New Zealand IT products market absorbs about 20 minutes of manufacturers’ annual production time – if that. The manufacturers don’t need us as much as we need them,” Nield said.
In response, Tánczos, on whose private member’s bill the proposed legislation is based, says Nield’s column “shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the bill will work”.
In a letter to Reseller News he stated: “The concern that this legislation will ‘bring supplies of IT products into New Zealand to a halt’ is ludicrous.
“The bill allows industry to design its own efficient and low cost way of reducing the environmental harm of disposing of e-waste, a rapidly growing problem in NZ. It is unlikely that industry will shoot themselves in the foot by cutting the supply of IT products.
“Currently, local government, the environment and the public bear the cost of disposing of e-waste. Industry can assist in reducing the problem by taking responsibility for the full lifecycle of their products.”
The bill makes provision for vendors and importers to take responsibility for the full lifecycle of products through cradle-to-grave product stewardship schemes.
Responding to Tánczos’ comments Nield says it is important for resellers and the industry not to “just sit back and wait for someone else to deal with IT product stewardship schemes”.
She says Tánczos is correct in that the system anticipated to arise from the bill, is intended to give the industry the chance to design something that works for it.
But she adds: “There will be a time when it has to be put to bed. All industry players should start getting involved and should be prepared to allocate some resource towards the IT waste minimisation project.”
The good news is that most major hardware vendors are involved in the process to develop a national product stewardship scheme.
Companies like HP, IBM, Lenovo, Ricoh and Toshiba are part of a working group with the Ministry of the Environment, whose job it will be to enforce the e-waste bill, to develop such a programme.
And, those I have spoken to are optimistic of its outcome.
While some were reluctant to comment on a bill that has not yet passed, Lenovo stated outright that it does not believe the bill is likely to bring supplies of IT products to a halt.
IBM, Ricoh and HP meanwhile pointed out they already have robust end-of-life schemes in place.
“Over the past 40 years HP has built a legacy in environmental leadership and innovation and continues to work actively in this area,” says HP corporate marketing manager Jeff Healey.
Ricoh managing director Mike Pollok says the company effectively has product stewardship schemes in place already, through which it provides “responsible end-of-life disposal”.
Nield has raised some valid concerns over the potential impact of the bill, but I am confident that neither the industry nor the government will shoot themselves in the foot and that they will deliver a product stewardship scheme that is fair to the industry, to customers and, of course, to the planet.