Greens move on tyre waste, announce plans for other waste types


The Green Party Annual Conference has wound up, with the party taking steps to keep both the social wing and the environmental wing of the party happy. In a weekend where the party had to address significant concerns arising out of the mess left by Metiria Turei’s departure in 2017, a back to basics approach was announced. It would see the party return to dealing with its core issues, whilst enjoying the fruits of some significant policy wins.

In keeping with their back to basics theme, the Green Party announced moves against waste tyre dumps in New Zealand. The problem, which in June 2017 saw an announcement of investment in a tyre processing facility, is one that New Zealand has been lagging behind other countries on for awhile.

It is not the only significant announcement that was made on waste, which I personally believe rivals climate change in potential severity if not addressed, but also in terms of opportunities for clean tech and new research. It was also announced that a waste stewardship programme would be designed for a range of waste types including tyres, lithium batteries, agri-chemicals and synthetic greenhouse gases.

All of this is well and good, but a much more wide ranging approach is needed for waste across the board. Whether it is common waste such as paper, plastic, wood, glass, or more problematic waste such as chemicals, waste fuel by products, electronic waste or otherwise, a comprehensive plan is needed. I believe a national policy statement on waste management, backed by appropriate rules and objectives. Councils need to introduce bylaws that are specific to their area, and compliant with any eventual policy statement.

Mayors of city and district councils around New Zealand have registered their support for increasing the fee for dumping rubbish at landfills from $10 to $40. The only problem I have here is that this then increases the risk of illegal dumping by the few that refuse to comply with local bylaws pertaining to waste, so I wonder if that means their councils would then be prepared to more aggressively pursue those who dump wherever they can instead of using their council bins.

Maybe this will come out over the next few months with regards to waste. I certainly hope so. New Zealand needs to reduce its waste footprint in order to maintain our current environment and improve our environmental standards in the long term. The growing realization that reducing waste can involve job creation should help to soothe the fears of those who think that the ever suffering rate/taxpayer will be further encumbered with costs that they can ill afford it.

A bigger question is how willingly will consumer and industrial advocates come on board and realize it is not all a Green conspiracy against their agenda’s and profits.

 

 

 

 

Public perceptions of e-waste in New Zealand


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 robertglennie000@gmail.com 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.

 

Farmers burying toxic waste on their land?


It appears that large numbers of farmers may be inappropriately burying or otherwise disposing of toxic waste on their land.

According to a representative from Greater Wellington Regional Council, that the disposal of substances on farms is a permitted activity. The representative admitted that councils lack the resources to monitor permitted activities. That raises a question about the suitability of the “permitted” classification for such an activity. Six such classifications exist under the Resource Management Act:

  • Permitted. No resource consent or other permission required from a consenting authority
  • Controlled. An applicant must notify the council of a proposed activity, but the council must grant permission
  • Restricted discretionary. A consenting council shall restrict the exercising of its discretion to those aspects stated if it grants resource consent.
  • Discretionary. No restriction on the council’s ability to use its discretion.
  • Non-Complying. A council may only grant consent if it is satisfied that the effects of proposed activities will be minor or the activity is not contrary to the policies and objectives of any relevant plan.
  • Prohibited. A resource consent or other permission cannot sought, and nor can it be granted.

Due to the toxic nature of a lot of the items being dumped, I would have thought that it would have a discretionary or restricted discretionary classification as an activity.

I am surprised that after 25 years of the Resource Management Act that no specific requirements to minimise waste and purposefully encourage the management of waste to adhere to Section 5 of the Act. I am also surprised that despite growing public awareness of the problem, councils do not seem to be giving the dumping of waste and waste as a general issue the level of attention that one would expect in a country that prides itself on being clean and green.

It is media coverage like this that encourages me to not only push on with my petition to reduce waste in New Zealand but also to encourage a conversation to start about our overall sustainability. In a year where nations and their civil populations seem to be waking up to the damage that plastic causes it is high time we took our own waste management seriously.

The electronic waste problem in New Zealand


There is a major type of pollution that is going completely unnoticed by the media, which I think needs to be mentioned. Electronic waste has been around ever since electronic appliances and equipment began to be manufactured, but it has only been in the last 25-30 years that concerns have started to be raised about the effect it is having on the environment in terms of the metals that are being mined in Africa for use in it, right through to issues to do with what happens to devices no longer wanted, or which are broken or otherwise cannot be used. This post attempts to answer some of the questions about electronic waste.

What is electronic waste?

It is the unwanted electronic appliances we have at home, electronic equipment used in businesses and industry that is no longer needed. The laptops and desktops, the i_________ (iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc)devices, the C.D./D.V.D. players, the televisions, microwaves, washing machines, the old cassette players, the old VHS and VCR recorders when they are no longer able to be used are considered electronic waste (e-waste).

Why is electronic waste dangerous?

When electronics are junked, they still contain the plastics, the metals and other substances that went into their manufacture. The diodes, the wiring, and so forth all contain substances and minerals that are very toxic. For example the printer inks and toners that go in printers including the ones used at home and in small offices, contain cadmium which can cause cardiovascular (heart)disease. Batteries, fluorescent lamps, switches and thermostats all contain mercury. You can see the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Register for more information on these and other toxic hazards posed by e-waste.

How bad is the problem in New Zealand?

In a word, significant. Although local councils are aware of the hazards posed by e-waste, few appear to have a long term plan for dealing with it within their territorial confines and there is no statutory requirement under either the Local Government Act 2002 or the Resource Management Act 1991 to produce and implement management plans for this type of waste. Although New Zealand is a signatory to the Basel Convention which is an international legal instrument established to prevent the export of such waste to inappropriate facilities in developing nations.

Because of the limitations, and the general lack of public knowledge about the problems posed by ┬áthis type of waste, e-waste goes into local tips, refuse stations, rubbish bins and where ever the user decides to dispose of it. Less than 1% of the 80,000 tons generated per annum goes into recycling programmes, whose establishment in New Zealand has been sporadic at best. The Environmental Protection Authority (E.P.A. – not to be confused, though similar in nature with the American Environmental Protection Agency)information seems to be more targetted at businesses rather than private individuals, such as I and you the reader.

Many of these items would be gladly received by small community groups, non-governmental organizations who are short on money and resources. Due to their rapid depreciation in value many people do not stop to consider alternatives to disposal of unwanted devices.

What problems can e-waste cause?

There are numerous problems that e-waste can cause, but the most significant is probably leachates getting into ground water from improperly designed waste tips and refuse stations. ArIn the process of that they would contaminate the soil, thereby potentially making crop production unsafe.

What can be done?

There are a number of things that can be done in New Zealand, and they include:

  • Requiring local councils to adopt management plans for this type of waste
  • Set up a nation wide recycling programme
  • Set up education programmes in the community
  • Amend appropriate legislation such as the Hazardous Substances and Noxious Organisms Act requiring toxic materials to be identified; the Resource Management Act to change the rules for land fills where so much of this ends up

New Zealand: NOT 100% Pure


I have an admission. It is a rather embarrassing one for a person who is as proud of my country as I am to make, but it has to be said. This nation that I and 4.6 million other New Zealanders call home has been subjecting you and millions of others to misleading advertising about the state of our natural environment.

You might have heard of the “100% Pure” advertising, marketing New Zealand as an environmentally pure location, pure enjoyment and fun. Yes it is pure enjoyment and yes this country is a lot of fun, but it is not environmentally pure. And it has not been for sometime.

There are some very good reasons why I am saying this:

  1. Anyone who has been an active recreationalist in our freshwater lakes and rivers cannot help but notice the decline in aquatic health of these features, artificial or otherwise. It stems in large part from excessive dairying, which is water intensive and although it creates significant jobs, the number of cow herds has become unsustainable. For every cow there is the urine and faeces of 10 human beings. These are rich in nitrate and when they get into water courses they contaminate drinking water supplies as the Hawkes Bay is finding out to its detriment.
  2. Our environmental footprint per individual New Zealander is substantial. If the whole world had the environmental footprint of a New Zealander, we would need all of the current planet and 95% of another equivalent planet. And it is well known that there is no Planet B to realistically colonized in the foreseeable future. Although it creates emissions – there is no 100% pollution free way of dealing with waste other than not doing the activity/using the device that caused it – high temperature incinerators may help (or contribute the to problem).
  3. Our marine environment is suffering the effects of a combination of problems including over fishing and trawlers using dredge nets that act like a scoop on the seabed. A failure to address the decline of critically listed species such as the Maui Dolphin, which is believed to number only 55 in the wild means such species may become extinct in our lifetime.
  4. Electronic waste is not a concept many New Zealanders are familiar with, yet we generate about 80,000 tons per annum or the displacement of a decent size aircraft carrier. It includes unwanted dumb/smart phones, kitchen appliances such as stoves and microwaves, televisions, camera’s, MP3/4 players and so forth,

This is not the first time valid concerns have been raised about the misleading advertising and nor is it the first time New Zealand has been found wanting on the subject. And for that I think New Zealand needs to do the honest thing and apologize. It needs to take down for good, the “100% Pure” advertising and come up with some other slogan, because “100% Pure” we are not.