Discarded electronic items are known as e-waste, which includes electronic equipment of any kind.
The term encompasses practically anything powered by an electrical source such as a power socket or a battery, including desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, keyboards and mobile phone batteries. It also includes home appliances, such as TVs, fridges, air conditioners, washing machines, rice cookers, microwave and toaster ovens, electric kettles, food processors and blenders, electric fans, DVD/video/music players, radios, hi-fis, vacuum cleaners, lighting fixtures and lamps, electronic toys, batteries, sports and leisure equipment and more.
Jessie Sword of Cook Islands General Transport said e-waste was mostly made up of metal and plastic components, but also contained small amounts of heavy metals and substances that could cause pollution and health concerns.
“We started in June, and we are now into our third month. The response from the general public, including home owners and commercial entities has been really good.
“We have been receiving e-waste products in a very orderly manner. The general feedback is that it’s been long overdue. What we try to provide is a long term solution and not a short term fix.
“We understand we’re always going to have imported products on the island, so we need a facility that will take care of these products when they are no longer viable.”
Sword said fees were usually charged for every product received at the company’s collection facility, but at present the service was free thanks to a regional programme organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), known as PacWaste.
“The programme pays for all the domestic waste fees. But once the programme’s allocated budget runs out, people will have to pay the fees themselves. A similar programme is run in other Pacific countries and right now, Rarotonga residents still have time to bring in these products and avoid paying anything.”
Sword said the recycling division was progressing well with its work and she hoped many more people would drop off their e-waste instead of just dumping it on the roadside.
“We collect it, we strip it, we sort it, we categorise it, we compact it and then we put it in a shipping container and send it to New Zealand.
“A lot of labour resources are required as well as some technical know-how-to, as to what can or can’t be recycled.
“We will be sending a shipping container to an electronic manufacturer based in Singapore later this year as part of the conditions of the PacWaste programme.”
Sword said many island residents had been hoarding e-waste products because there was nowhere to get rid of them.
“It’s actually providing a long term solution for imported products that have no more life. This is a small island and we have a landfill that is filling up far too fast, mainly because we have a lot of waste products that are dumped instead of being recycled.
“A lot of our people want to do the right thing. We value our environment as it is very important for our economic growth and sustainability to ensure our environment is pristine condition for people who visit our island. It is also important for those of us who live here.
“It’s all about getting people to understand that instead of just discarding these electronic waste products on the side of the road, they can bring it over to our facility which is open six days a week.”