Environment Minister Nick Smith says the national electronic waste collection event eDay will go ahead this year despite his ministry turning down its bid for funding. His comments come after concerns that the scheme, which is designed to offer an easy way to recycle old computers and mobile phones, would not take place this year. The 2020 Communication Trust, which runs the programme, was encouraged by the Environment Ministry to apply for about $1.5 million to the waste minimisation fund for the event. Its application was turned down this week. Chairman Earl Mardle said he knew the request for funding was a long shot, given it was an approximately $6 million fund. "It was highly unlikely that they would hand out more than a quarter of that money to one programme," he said. When asked about it at the local government and environment committee today, Dr Smith gave assurance the event will go ahead this year, saying he has asked ministry officials to go back to the trust. "What I'm able to reassure you is that the Government will be providing, through the waste fund, support for eDay this year," he said. "The ministry does have serious concerns about the way in which the waste from eDay last year was exported without the proper permits." The trust's recycling contractor CRTNZ has been charged with breaching electronic waste export regulations. The company has been impacted financially and there were concerns it could go bankrupt before disposing of last year's waste. On eDay 2009, more than 970 tonnes of e-waste was collected. Mardle said there were still 220 tonnes of monitor glass that needed to be recycled. "What we are trying to do is avoid the possibility that a receiver might come along, say well we have no contract with anybody for this glass, no one is going to pay us, ... stick it on a truck and take it to the dump." Both Dr Smith and Mardle said they were working to make sure the remaining waste was discarded properly. "If we can sort the appropriate arrangements, then we can go down to the company and say hand over us the remaining materials and we can dispose of them," Mardle said. "I'm hoping to be able to conclude that in the next few days." Dr Smith said he had absolute confidence in 2020 Trust, but the ministry needed to work with it to find a practical way to prevent similar situations in the future. He has asked ministry staff to provide a plan on how "the game on managing electronic waste" can be lifted. "If we are going to go through all that effort to collect all that e-waste, I think we need to have some confidence that it is being appropriately disposed of." Dr Smith said he was interested in looking into whether New Zealand could mine its own e-waste instead of exporting it overseas. "There's such a company operating in Adelaide, it would be my preference that we're able to recycle and brake down our e-waste in New Zealand, if it was at all possible."
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The owner of a company tasked with exporting the electronic waste collected at last month's eDay is baffled by a Ministry for Economic Development investigation into the consignment. Alex Hong, of CRTNZ, said details of the investigation were unclear, and he believed he had acted according to the conditions of his contract to export electronic waste, including computer monitors. But the ministry's national enforcement unit is investigating an allegation against Hong's company, believed to be to do with whether it has mixed hazardous waste with reusable computer items in containers to be sent to South Korea. Although some of the regulations were complicated, Mr Hong said he believed he had done everything correctly. "I have every confidence I'm doing it right, so I'm thinking I'm safe," he told The New Zealand Herald. He said his biggest concern was that the products were now "frozen", unable to be exported. "Everything is stopped." The investigation was the first time he had been contacted by the ministry, he said. Chairman of eDay organiser 2020 Communication Trust Earl Mardle said the allegation of improper handling of hazardous waste was yet to be proven, but every day the products sat in yards added extra costs to the scheme. The company had called in independent inspectors at a cost of about $30,000 to go through 60 container-loads. This year's eDay, on September 12, saw 966 tonnes of old computers and other electronic devices collected nationwide. Some were to be dismantled for recycling and others were to be resold.