More revelations about the Exide battery recycling plant in Petone have come out in today’s Dominon Post.
Greenpeace has also come out in favour of keeping the ability to recycle this hazardous waste here in New Zealand. This echoed Dave Clendon’s call last week in the house and his post about the need to uphold our ethical and legal obligations.
As the DomPost article points out, the plant in Petone hasn’t always acted as a responsible company should. It has put the workers and community’s health in danger. But the answer is not to close the plant and ship our hazardous materials to somewhere else where we cannot see it and some other workers and communities get sick because of it.
A 2003 report by Greenpeace on used lead acid battery (ULAB) recycling in the Phillipines — where we are still shipping our batteries to — shows that we’re simply shifting the problem.
Last March, Greenpeace received information that (Philippine Recyclers Incorporated) PRI was once again importing its supply of ULABs from New Zealand, an OECD country, in blatant disregard of the intent of the Basel Ban. Inquiries made by the Greens Parliamentary Research Office to the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment revealed that PRI has been importing ULABs from that country in several instances from 2000 to 2002. This information has since been verified by Greenpeace research on import permits issued by the EMB to PRI in the last three years.
In 2000, New Zealand exported about 738 metric tons of ULABs to PRI, which was followed by 2,500 MT of ULABs in 2001 from a New Zealand company called Resource Recyclers Tech. More recently, in November and December of 2002, PRI imported ULABs from New Zealand totaling 720 MT and 210 MT respectively.
As a party to the Basel Convention, the New Zealand government is aware of the problems associated with the recycling of hazardous wastes like ULABs in developing countries. Yet, the New Zealand Minister for the Environment justifies its decision to allow these toxic exports to the Philippines by saying that the wastes are going to “proper” facility. The New Zealand government also cites that PRI has acquired ISO 9002 and ISO 14001 certifications in an obvious bid to rationalize its controversial decision and bolster PRI’s image as an environmentally sound operation.
So we’ve been violating the Basel Convention for over a decade now, and, if Exide has to shut down we’ll have no way of meeting our obligations.
To make the situation better we need to do a few things:
- Ensure proper regulation of companies recycling hazardous waste in New Zealand to ensure health and safety of workers and communities
- Make sure the regulation favours domestic recycling of our waste, not just shipping the problem overseas.
- A more rigorous assessment of international recycling plants by the Ministry of Economic Development (as required under Basel), not just hand written notes saying “fine by me”.
- A review of whatever decision allowed a battery recycling plant to be situated right in the middle of a residential area and subsequent changes to RMA or applicable legislation to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
Our goal should be getting New Zealand to zero waste. To do this, we need the capacity and the resolve to recyle our own mess.