Hazardous waste including e-waste
Find out which types of waste and e-waste are classified as hazardous.
If your waste or electronic waste is hazardous, you will need a permit to move it across international borders. So it is important to know whether your waste is classified as hazardous, or not.
At the EPA, we cannot verify that any particular shipment is hazardous waste or not. This responsibility rests with the exporter or importer. However, if you would like to discuss your shipment with us, please contact our Hazardous Substances team.
International agreements on hazardous waste
New Zealand is party to several multilateral environmental agreements covering the import and export of hazardous waste. These agreements were put in place to manage shipments of hazardous waste to prevent harm to human health and the environment across the world (see timeline below). They define the types of waste that are hazardous and document the agreements on how some types of hazardous waste should be managed.
To implement New Zealand's international obligations for importing and exporting hazardous waste, New Zealand has the following law:
- New Zealand Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Act 1988
- New Zealand Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Prohibition Order (No 2) 2004
Types of hazardous waste
Hazardous waste includes, but is not limited to, waste products that contain, or are contaminated by, hazardous substances such as:
- pesticides and herbicides
- waste hydrocarbons
- wastes containing polychlorinated/polybrominated biphenyls
- lead-acid and other batteries
- electronic or electrical waste (e-waste), including plastic casings, wires, plugs and components
- products containing or contaminated by persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as some older fire-fighting foams (see link below)
- waste from the production of leather, inks, dyes, paint, varnish, resin, latex and glues
- clinical and pharmaceutical waste
- waste from the manufacture of wood-preserving chemicals and organic solvents.
Note: If exporting waste, you should also check the rules for the import of hazardous waste for the country you are exporting to. If the waste isn’t considered hazardous in New Zealand, but is considered hazardous
at the destination country, you will still need to apply for a permit from us. We cannot issue an export permit for hazardous waste without the prior consent of the importing country.
When planning the shipment route for exporting or importing hazardous waste, you should also check the permitting requirements of all of the countries that your waste will pass through en route.
Exporting and importing hazardous waste
Electronic and electrical waste (e-waste)
What e-waste is
E-waste is any discarded electrical or electronic device (and components of these), including non-functioning equipment and items intended for recycling or recovery, such as:
- computing and communication devices (mobile phones, computer parts and monitors, photocopiers, scanners)
- small household appliances and tools (toasters, hairdryers, drills, electric toothbrushes)
- audio-visual entertainment equipment (televisions, stereos, speakers)
- activated glass (cathode-ray tubes, fluorescent lamps)
- monitoring and control equipment (security systems, medical equipment)
- e-waste can include any of the components of the waste: plastic casings and components, electrical wire and plugs (and their plastic coverings, e.g. PVC), metals, coated glass, circuit boards and chips, and other parts
- waste metal cables coated or insulated with plastics containing or contaminated with coal tar, PCB, lead, cadmium or other organohalogen compounds
- unsorted waste batteries and batteries containing hazardous constituents.
How to find out if your e-waste is hazardous
It is your responsibility to determine whether your waste in your consignment is hazardous or not. We at the EPA cannot verify this. We advise that it is safest to assume that e-waste is hazardous and that you will need a permit. We advise this because many types of e-waste contain hazardous materials.
However, if you think that your consignment of e-waste does not include hazardous materials, we recommend that you collect evidence of this; otherwise your shipment may face delays during Customs checks in New Zealand and in other countries.
What to look for
E-waste considered as hazardous includes waste containing certain hazardous materials.
See the Basel Convention (Y-codes in Annex I, A-codes in Annex VIII and the non-hazardous B-codes in Annex IX) to work out if your e-waste is hazardous.
Look out for waste containing brominated flame retardants
Some plastics in e-waste contain chemicals called brominated flame retardants, which were added for fire resistance in equipment. These flame retardents are found in plastics in many electrical and electronic devices. E-waste likely to contain high levels include (this list is not exhaustive):
- plastic casings and components like internal fans (computers and hairdryers)
- printed circuit boards, found in computers and many household devices including TV remote controls
- other computer parts such as CPUs and hard drives
- old-style TV monitors and computer monitors (tubes) in the plastic housing and foot
- equipment involving heat, including fan heaters, hairdryers, microwave oven doors, lightbulb fittings, printers and photocopiers.
Some brominated flame retardants are also banned under an international agreement, the Stockholm Convention, as they are shown to be persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These include:
- hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (also known as octabromodiphenyl ether and octaBDE)
- tetrabromodiphenyl ether, and pentabromodiphenyl ether (also known as pentabromodiphenyl ether, pentaBDE)
- decabromodiphenyl ether (also known as decaBDE, deca-BDE, DBDE, deca, decabromodiphenyl oxide, DBDPO, or bis(pentabromophenyl) ether).
If the e-waste contains brominated flame retardants banned under the Stockholm Convention, or contains unsorted plastics, a permit can only be issued to export it from New Zealand if the plastic will be incinerated in a high-temperature incinerator at the destination waste disposal facility.
To work out if your e-waste contains brominated fire retardants, see the Ministry for the Environment guidance:
Managing waste that may contain brominated flame retardants (please note that this guide was written in 2013, and may not fully cover newer materials).
Exporting and importing hazardous e-waste
The process for applying to import or export hazardous e-waste into or out of New Zealand is the same as for general hazardous waste.