Between 72,000 and 85,000 tons of electronic waste accumulate in New Zealand each year. Electronic waste has many valuable minerals in its composition such as gold and copper, which can be found in commercial quantities and have considerable value.
Only about 1% of the e-waste that accumulates each year is ever properly recycled, dismantled or salvaged. The potential environmental risks are considerable – toxic elements such as lead and mercury whose poisonous effects are well known, along other not so well known but similarly toxic elements such as cadmium, can leach into groundwater, contaminate the soil and release harmful dust. All of these have potential vectors into the human body by swallowing, inhalation or touch.
However there is a growing awareness that this is not sustainable and risks causing lasting damage to New Zealand’s reputation. But also there is much wastage in gold, copper and other valuable minerals by the failure to extract them. Gold and copper are estimated to be dumped in e-waste at quantities of 600 kilogrammes and 600 tons respectively. There will be a market for that much of those two minerals.
As part of the academic requirements for my Graduate Diploma of Sustainable Management, I am required to conduct original research. Knowing what I have mentioned above has inspired me to do mine in e-waste. My research question is:
What are the public perceptions of electronic waste in New Zealand, with a view to starting a public discourse on the issue.
To this end I am doing a survey examining peoples understanding of electronic waste as an issue, asking for their views on it and whether thei council is doing enough
If you live in New Zealand and are keen to participate, I would love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more – you will be given a survey in MS Word format to do. It is not a long one. Likewise if you have experience working with e-waste either in a planning, handling or other role, I would be very happy to hear what your thoughts are.