Batteries Not Included (Editorial, August/September 2004 edition)
I was extremely disappointed to read Guy Crittenden’s editorial in the August/September issue regarding Alberta’s new electronic recycling program. Mr. Crittenden did not appear to make an effort to actually learn about the details of the program, or how it was developed, before expressing his opinion, and seems more interested in making assumptions that support his own bias against this type of recycling program.
It’s unfortunate, because with one phone call or by looking on the Alberta Environment website (www.gov.ab.ca/env), Mr. Crittenden could have found out about the extensive research and consultation with industry and other stakeholders that went into the development of the program.
He also would have discovered that Alberta’s program is in complete alignment with the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers’ (CCME) 12 guiding principles for electronics product stewardship, and therefore will be harmonized with other provinces as they develop similar programs.
Mr. Crittenden might have been surprised to find out that Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (EPSC) has been actively providing input since work formally began on the program’s development almost two years ago. As a result of their advice, Alberta adopted EPSC’s vendor qualification guidelines and, with minor modifications, their proposed product list and proposed fees — the three areas most important to them for a nationally harmonized approach.
The feedback and expertise of EPSC’s member companies and other electronics industry stakeholders has been key to the development of the program, and industry participation will continue to be key as the program is implemented.
The most important thing that Mr. Crittenden missed in writing his opinion without any attempt to do any research or seek out the facts, is that there is a real environmental issue related to used electronics, and those that are solely relying on industry and EPSC to resolve the issue are still talking, while Alberta and Albertans are taking action to deal with it.
We are responding to your recent editorial criticizing Alberta’s new innovative e-waste stewardship program. We are concerned that your comments do not present a fair or accurate picture of Alberta’s program. We would, therefore, like to clarify a few points:
Electronics Product Stewardship Canada participated in consultations throughout the development of the program. While it is possible this consultation may not always have been as extensive as EPSC would have liked, they were certainly recognized as both an important stakeholder and a valuable knowledge source.
To illustrate how seriously Alberta considered industry input, note how the products included in the program coincide with those proposed by EPSC. This is in spite of public consultations showing strong support for an expanded product list. Vendor Qualification Standards developed by EPSC have also been adopted by Alberta. It is important to also understand that EPSC is unable to establish a national stewardship program on its own, and requires legislation to be introduced by provinces and territories. For this reason, EPSC has indicated general support for Alberta’s move to introduce a program.
Perhaps the most surprising accusation made in the editorial, however, is that the program ignores the 12 guiding CCME principles. Considering that Alberta was a major participant in the development of these principles, it is highly unlikely that we would ignore them. And, in fact, close examination confirms that the Alberta program conforms very well with these principles.
As for the impossibly short deadline of October 1, electronics collection was indeed launched on that date, with a promotional campaign and extensive network of collection sites across the province. Although a few bugs will undoubtedly need to be worked out along the way, Alberta has successfully introduced a program that will divert thousands of tonnes of e-waste from landfill, while other Canadian jurisdictions are still pondering their options.
Perhaps this publication might consider supporting initiative and innovation in the future, rather than criticizing those who have the courage to be leaders.
Board of Directors
Recycling Council of Alberta
Our Editor replies:
I was more than a little amused at some of the points in the two letters above, especially those concerning my apparent failure to talk to stakeholders and learn about the program details. You have no idea how many people I spoke to, including the very stakeholders and organizations mentioned, who called me to complain bitterly about the rushed Alberta program, its disregard of meaningful input from the folks who actually produce electronics equipment, and the over-arching criticism that this is just a flawed collection system that has little to do with true product stewardship. They lobbied me to write on this topic since they must negotiate with the Alberta government and can’t state things as freely as perhaps I can on my editorial page. If I’m wrong, the funny thing is that it’s the thoughts of the very people you accuse me of not talking that I reproduced in the editorial.
Alberta’s program runs the risk of being another “black box” like used oil. (See Hlne Lauzon’s article on Quebec’s new program, page 16.) Does Alberta really know which producers are bringing what products into the province, and which pose the greatest environmental burden? True, for the PR value Alberta says it has adopted the EPSC guidelines, but who will audit the program (as the EPSC guidelines require) and will that audit be meaningful? Alberta’s program has all the hallmarks of something designed to generate a political announcement, leaving the figuring out of how it will really work until later. Better to sound the alarm now than after it takes effect. — ed.
Note: Readers can find relevant letters that object to the potential flaws in Alberta’s electronics waste program under Posted Documents at our website: www.solidwastemag.com
“ONE BILLION ALUMINUM CANS MISSED BY ONTARIO BLUE BOX”
Did the commissioner factor in the “Shriner Effect” on aluminum cans. The Shrine Club across Ontario has a very effective aluminum can collection system, supported by industrial containers, on-board crushing equipment etc. which will readily account for the missing aluminum? We here in South Western Ontario have kept quiet about the loss of the cans from the blue box system because we support the establishment of the new Shrine Hospital in London, Ontario. However to simply suggest that the cans are going to landfill is in error. They’re all, save a tiny fraction, readily accounted for by others who are actively seeking this valuable resource.
R.A. Bob McCaig