From cellular telephones to computers and scores of other audio-visual products, the quantity of electronics that find their way into each household is on the rise. From there, it’s a relatively short time before it becomes electronic waste, or “e-waste” as it’s commonly called. Environment Canada estimates that nearly 200,000 tonnes of old computer equipment and other e-waste will require disposal before 2006.
This is not just a waste of resources; it’s also a direct hit on the environment because e-waste contains hazardous materials like lead, chromium, cadmium, and mercury. These toxic materials are best kept out of landfills and incinerators, where they can leach into groundwater or are released into the air.
Out of concern that every province would address the problem differently, Canada’s top computer and electronics manufacturers have come together. In March, they announced the Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (EPS Canada), a not-for-profit organization funded by 16 multi-national corporations in the information technology and consumer electronics sectors. With an array of partners and stakeholders, EPS Canada’s mandate is to create a national, industry led electronics product stewardship program for Canada.
Corporations Supporting Recycling (CSR), on behalf of EPS Canada, recently led a delegation of Canadians to the Netherlands and Belgium to visit electronics waste stewardship organizations. They also met with representatives from Sweden. The purpose of the trip was to learn from the European experiences. (See “Computer Crash” and “Let’s Go Dutch” at www.solidwastemag.com)
Preliminary proposals for programs in Canada include a fixed disposal fee tacked on to the price of computers and TVs that would be used to fund programs at the municipal level. The fee would be lower for smaller items such as printers and hand-held gadgets. (See article, page 11.)
For more information, contact Damian Bassett at 416-594-3456, extension 229 or visit www.csr.org (the CSR Sheet is located under “Publications”).