Croxley’s New Lynn Recycling Centre has a unique relationship with Environmental Choice New Zealand.
It’s the first - and currently only – recycling operation in New Zealand to be certified by Environmental Choice.
The Centre recycles common office products – toner cartridges, cardboard and polystyrene through to full-scale recycling of office equipment like printers, computers and mobile phones. Of that input, the company’s Environmental Choice licences cover two areas: End-of-Life Services for ITT Equipment (EC-56), principally printers; and Recycling for Imaging Consumables (EC-55) where the core product is toner cartridges.
The toner cartridges roll in from some 14,000 collection points throughout the country - including businesses of all sizes, schools, universities, hospitals, government departments, banks, home users and retailers and the service is also free to consumers. The biggest users of this service are the organisations and individuals that sell and use IT consumables such as toner and inkjet cartridges.
There’s an important connection with other Environmental Choice licensees too: it is a requirement of another ECNZ criteria (EC-24 Printers, Copiers, Faxes and Consumables) that systems are available for collecting used products and consumables for reuse or recycling. Canon, Ricoh and Brother use Croxley to fulfil that requirement for them.
The world generates a huge amount of electronic waste. Every office and most homes will have several items of electronic equipment which has a finite life and at some point becomes outmoded (and superseded by the next model) or un-repairable.
Electronic equipment is a complex mix of plastics and metals, presenting a significant challenge in terms of recycling. Metals have value but have to be economically recoverable, while it’s difficult to do anything with processed and specially shaped plastics.
In the past, e-waste like printers has often ended up being sent to China (to purportedly be recycled) or has ended up in landfill. The China option has effectively gone from the equation given the Chinese Government’s decision to cease imports of recyclable materials.
So to avoid the fallback option of landfill, something must be done with the e-waste. That means dismantling it and finding a market for what you end up with, says Croxley Recycling Manager Wayne Grieve. “You have to turn it into a commodity, that someone is willing to pay for,” he says. “And it needs to be in volumes that justify the effort.”
Recycled plastic also has to be as metal-free as possible, quite a challenge given how inextricably entwined the two materials often are in an item like a printer or circuit board. Wayne says China will continue to take recycled materials but they must have no more than 0.5% contamination (e.g. metal traces in the plastic waste). This is a significant challenge for most waste organisations.
Croxley Recycling is a revelation. Central to the recycling work are a pair of machines affectionately known as “Eva” and “Jennie” after their manufacturers’ names.
Both machines feature a conveyor belt that takes the waste products to a grinder that reduces them to a range of different-sized chunks.
Jennie – the most recently acquired granulator, features both ferrous and non-ferrous metal detection. This picks up any metal missed by Wayne’s team of manual sorters and dismantlers. The metal, of course, also has a value and the Centre supplies both a metal smelter and a downstream metal recycler.
Eva chunks the ex-printer plastic and toner cartridges down to fingernail- or smaller-sized chips which get shipped to several Asian companies who pay up to $600 a tonne for the material. Most is the cream/fawn/white shade common to office products plastics but one large sack contains bright red chips – which come from large Mobil petrol station dispenser signs that get broken occasionally and would otherwise end up as landfill.
Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) – the “brains” of the electronic equipment - are a steady commodity flowing through the Centre. Simpler ones fetch 75 cents a kilogram and go to a specialist smelter in Japan via a Basel permit; the smelter extracts the precious metals in the PCBs. A more complex PCB gets $5 a kg while the most complex boards bring $9 a kg; the reason being that “all that glitters is gold”, says Wayne. “All those shiny metals, which can include gold, have a high value. In fact, a tonne of those high-value PCBs is worth more than a tonne of conventional gold ore.”
The contribution by the Centre to reducing landfill is admirable. A recent audit showed just 1.6% by weight of what comes into the Centre can’t be recycled. The company’s Environmental Choice credentials don’t necessarily bring in extra money for the company but several important benefits come from the licensing, says Wayne. “Firstly, it ensures accountability and validates the end-of-life loop with a downstream audit pathway. Secondly, it ensures compliance and adherence to both legal and environmental requirements of a recycler operating in New Zealand and we are the only recycler with an Environmental Choice licence. Thirdly, those Environmental Choice-certified OEM products have a readily identified and validated end-of-life loop. And finally, the licences are independently audited by a third party each year to give assurance all documented processes are being followed and are current, which also helps with work practice reviews to ensure best practice is in place.
“All of those benefits only exist because Environmental Choice licences have robust requirements.”
The system to track the life of the OEM products covered by the Centre is also admirable. When a Brother printer reaches end-of-life, for example, it ends up in one of more than 100 one- or three-cubic metre collapsible plastic crates around the Brother sites. Everything tracks back to a serial number on the equipment, and when the Centre receives it and records its arrival, it closes the loop for the OEM.
One exciting trend Wayne sees happening is the innovation occurring to create new products out of the e-waste flow.
“What would really be great is that one day the old plastic from the printers could be used to make new ones,” he says. “That would be the ultimate recycling loop.”
For office technology manufacturers, Brother New Zealand Limited, Ricoh New Zealand Limited and Canon New Zealand Limited – all Environmental Choice New Zealand licensees, the Croxley connection is vital to their sustainability programme.
Brother International (NZ) Limited Director & Manager Corporate Strategy and CSR, Mayuko Hirose, says Croxley Recycling is a key partner in ensuring the company provides simple and effective recycling options at no cost to consumers and businesses. “To enable us to maintain our ISO14001 certification for environmental management, it’s vital that our products are recycled in the right way; Croxley Recycling gives us confidence our products will be repurposed appropriately, as they are an independently audited and verified Environmental Choice New Zealand-certified recycler.
“The partnership we have with Croxley means we can continue to be an active industry advocate for sustainability and environmental protection in New Zealand. Not only does Brother have the most comprehensive end-of-life cartridge-recycling programme provided by any NZ print brand, we're also the first NZ print brand to receive carboNZero certification recognising our ongoing pledge to manage, reduce and offset carbon emissions.
“Care for the environment and sustainability considerations are built into every aspect of our business – from our eco-factories that have minimal power usage, to energy-efficient machine design such as nearly zero-power-consumption for standby mode, to staff energy saving initiatives in our offices - and we see Environmental Choice as a vital part of our sustainability offering.”
Ricoh New Zealand Sustainability and Administration Co-ordinator Helen Mahoney says Croxley has played a huge part in the success of the company’s New Zealand sustainability programme.
The company’s Managing Director Mike Pollok says Ricoh, as an Environmental Choice licensee, is dedicated to complete transparency when it comes to its environmental practices. “Partnering with Croxley as our e-waste and toner recycler means we can guarantee a full life-cycle for our machines and toners. Working with Croxley gives us not only peace of mind around the end-of-life of our products, being able to divert 99% of our machine materials from landfill, but also allows us to meet our own waste diversion goals.”
Canon New Zealand Ltd Health is another big fan of Croxley’s recycling facility. The company’s Environment and Sustainability Advisor Vanessa Marsh says that Croxley helps Canon to ensure their products are recycled in the best way for the environment and customers. “And by also being Environmental choice licensees, we know Croxley has been externally and independently audited, which provides assurances that the standards required are being regularly verified.
“The comprehensive data that Croxley Recycling provides Canon for our toner, ink and e-waste recycling nationwide, is recorded and monitored as part of Canon’s ISO 14001 global certification.”
Wayne says recycling only works commercially if there is a market for the recycled product and viable volumes of the waste are available. He says there are plenty of overseas companies interested in good uncontaminated plastic waste, and despite China’s recent cessation of e-waste imports, Chinese businesses are still interested in setting up receiving plants in other countries.
One thing Wayne would like to see is more honesty around what happens to e-waste (and waste in general). “There is still a lot of ‘greenwash’ occurring; where companies boast of having zero waste to landfill. That’s a fallacy; there is no zero landfill.”
He believes there’s still a need for somewhere for consumers – the public – to be able to take e-waste products, and adds that Croxley would be happy to discuss a possible partnership with organisations receiving consumer e-waste if such a collection point was established.
“We could then ensure it goes through a controlled IT waste recovery process built on healthy foundations. But at the moment something like that for consumers is sadly lacking.”
Croxley Recycling recycles imaging consumables, such as toner cartridges and full-scale printer dismantling and recycling. Croxley Recycling works with OEM's (Original Equipment Manufacturers) in the IT consumables sector to provide services tailored to fit the requirements of the manufacturer.
Croxley Recycling has 14,000 collection points including businesses of all sizes, schools, universities, hospitals, government departments, banks, home users and retailers and is free to consumers. The biggest users of this service are the organisations and individuals that sell and use IT consumables such as toner and inkjet cartridges.
As a functioning business unit of Croxley Stationery, Croxley Recycling is managed with both Enviro-Mark Diamond and CEMARS® certification and Environmental Choice. Croxley invests in processes to reduce its environmental impact and Croxley Recycling recycles greater than 99% of all materials processed through its image consumable facility.