e-waste issues addressed through collaboration

| By Alex Daniel, Enviroschools Facilitator, Waikato

Enviroschools Facilitator, Alex Daniel tells us about how collaborating with Urban Miners in Waipā has provided an opportunity for experts to work alongside young people and their community, increasing knowledge of e-waste and resource recovery, engaging people of all ages and creating a model for future learning and action.

Current Situation:

Rotary Urban Miners in Waipā was started in 2020 by Mark Hanlon and David Blewden after they became concerned about the lack of e-waste recycling facilities in the area. I first met with the pair in 2020 when they approached Enviroschools as a way of connecting with some local, rural schools to support and host their trial e-waste collections.  Working with small, rural Enviroschools communities (Horahora and Te Miro) provided the Urban Miners team with an opportunity to test-run their systems and we saw it as a great way educate and engage our rangatahi and community on issues with e-waste and introduce the concept of circular economy through resource recovery.

Fast forward to 2023, Urban Miners now holds e-waste collections in Cambridge and Te Awamutu every month and have an e-waste processing facility (funded by Waipa District Council), to sort and process e-waste after each collection event.

Urban Miners, a not-for-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers from Rotary and the community, run e-waste collections, reuse, repair, and recycling services for Waipā where they salvage and refurbish reusable cell phones, computers, and laptops. These are then sold to the public at the Cambridge Lions Market. Other reusable appliances are passed on to the local Lions Shed for resale. All recovered materials are shipped to partner companies for full recycling. –  Urban Miners

The regular e-waste collections are well supported, however Urban Miners noticed that the demographic of the people attending the collection events were mostly older or younger members of the community with a noticeable gap of the 30-50 age group.

Exploring Alternatives:

Mark and David got in touch again and we discussed an engagement plan to get 30–50-year-olds more involved. We asked the question: “When and where do we see a lot of adults in this age bracket?”

We recognised that a large portion of 30–50-year-olds in the Waipā community are parents with school-aged children and acknowledged that the weekend collections may clash with busy whānau attending sports and cultural commitments.  We identified that an ideal way to engage with this missing demographic was through targeted e-waste collection events during drop-off and pick-up times at an urban primary school in Cambridge or Te Awamutu.

The Urban Miners organisation has been well supported by Waipa District Council and the Principal of Cambridge Primary School, Mike Pettit, (also a Waipā councillor) was enthusiastic about the idea of a school collection point. He put forward Cambridge Primary School as a candidate for the pilot, with Enviroschools supporting student learning and engagement to wrap around the event.

Working together, we constructed a plan.  A simple school-wide education kit was pulled together utilising concepts and activities from the Enviroschools Theme Area Zero Waste and the Story of Electronics to help learners explore issues of e-waste and the concept of a circular economy linked to the mahi that Urban Miners undertake.


“Humans are the only species on Earth producing waste that does not readily return to nature. There is no waste in nature and there was very little waste in early societies. As our society has developed, we have created sophisticated processes and products to service our needs and wants. The more we consume, the more waste we produce. The school and home environments can produce large volumes of waste – or not!” – Enviroschools Zero Waste Theme Area resource


Taking Action: 

Roles were assigned, with event details and health and safety worked on by the Urban Miners team in collaboration with Cambridge Primary School management staff. Meanwhile, Enviroschools facilitator Alex worked alongside teachers and ākonga. Growing knowledge and understanding of the issues and alternatives helped everyone engage in the plan and also built excitement towards the collection day at the school.

A presentation at assembly provided an opportunity for students to share their knowledge with the wider community and inform them of the e-waste collection event at their school.

The experts from Urban Miners Mark Hanlon and David Blewden provide valuable information and encouragement for those wanting to divert their e-waste from landfill.










Assemblies at Cambridge Primary School are large community gatherings. Student Enviroleaders worked together to prepare a presentation for their school assembly as a way to raise community awareness on the issue of e-waste and to advertise the collection event.

The collection day started early with a 7am set-up. The Urban Miners team ensured staff and students understood their role of directing, collecting and sorting waste from both a drive-through station and for foot-traffic drop-offs. As people arrived at school everyone worked hard directing traffic and collecting e-waste from the school community (and we had some extra interest from passers-by out for walks or on their way to work).

Experienced e-waste Miners help students to receive and sort the items that the community brings in.

Students greet community members and their e-waste, sorting as they go.









Batteries are sorted and graded as part of the e-waste collection.

Geoff Bently from TechLeapNZ shows students how to repair and reuse equipment.











When the bell went, most of the helpers returned to class, however some lucky learners headed off to a Repair Detectives workshop with local tech guru, Geoff Bently of TechLeapNZ who ran sessions using some of the e-waste collected.

Urban Miners took a break and then returned at 2.30pm to repeat the collection and sorting process in the afternoon, timed with the end of the school day.


The Cambridge Primary School-based collection day with Urban Miners was a success, with several positive outcomes:

  • Students took part in education about and action for a community waste issue
  • community awareness and engagement with the Urban Miners collections grew
  • e-waste was collected, sorted and diverted from landfill with precious resources cycled back into use
  • the project embedded strong partnerships between a local not-for profit, local council, Enviroschools and a school community.

By supporting and facilitating meaningful collaboration we were able to respond to a community issue and come together to creatively work toward a positive result.

With recurring weekend collections already taking up considerable volunteer hours for Urban Miners, it is unlikely the weekday school collection will be a regular event, however with a solid template for planning constructed, it would be easy to replicate or modify this approach either at this or any other local school.

Banner image: e-waste was sorted as it was brought in by the community, loaded into the Urban Miner trailer and moved to facilities in Leamington to process.