The Government has thrown its backing - but not its money - behind a mobile phone recycling programme.
The scheme - called RE:MOBILE - was established in 2010 by the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) and as part of it 2degrees, Telecom and Vodafone offer bins and envelopes at their stores for people to recycle mobile phones. To date, around 900,000 phones have been collected in the scheme.
The TCF said today it wants to extend the capability of the programme, which has now been accredited by the Ministry for the Environment.
"This Government seal of approval of our programme is proof that it has met its environmental requirements for accreditation. Now anyone who wants to recycle their phone knows that they are using an approved scheme," outgoing TCF chief executive David Stone said.
The TCF wants to increase the volume of phones being collected by almost 25 per cent a year and hope more than 292,000 come in annually by 2020.
Environment Minister Amy Adams said the programme was the first scheme of its kind dealing with e-waste to be accredited under the Waste Minimisation Act.
"E-waste is a growing waste issue as New Zealanders increasingly own multiple devices, such as phones, computers and tablets," Adams said.
"On average, New Zealanders replace their mobile phones every 18 months, leading to a significant number of phones available for reuse or recycling.
"In fact, it is estimated that each year up to three million mobile phones become obsolete in New Zealand. Of those, only about 2 per cent are recycled.
"There is significant potential for improved efficiency in the use of resources if we can capture and process e-waste," she said.
A spokesman for Adams said the Government did not provide any funding but that the accreditation helped to market the scheme.
In the scheme, the phones are sent to Swapkit New Zealand, which collect and sort the devices into those that can and cannot be reused.
Around 80 per cent of the phones, according to the TCF, are refurbished and resold elsewhere in the world. The remainder are sent to Sims Recycling Solutions and Zero Waste NZ to be broken down and to recover components.
Around 95 per cent of these component materials can be recycled.
Stone said the scheme diverts phones from landfills.
"We hope that people will be encouraged to bring in their unwanted phones to Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees stores around the country following the Government endorsement of this programme. Over 70% of kiwis have at least one unconnected mobile in their house, this tells us that there are many phones still lying around in people's homes," Stone said.
Around a third of Swapkit's profits from phone recycling is donated to the Starship Foundation.
Swapkit undertook a survey as part of the announcement and said 81 per cent of those who took part were not sure where to recycle a phone.