In a move that demonstrates the power of municipalities to determine environmental outcomes where provinces and the federal government might come up short, the City of Toronto has adopted a new policy to ensure that old computers, television sets and other electronics wastes (“e-waste”) are disposed of properly.
The initiative was led by Toronto Councilor and outspoken environmentalist Gord Perks, who successfully argued that the city should adopt a policy for the safe disposal of its technology assets. In short, all Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will require successful bidders for e-waste disposal contracts to track the materials and be able to prove to the city that they’ve been disposed of “in accordance with government environmental regulations and other governing health and safety regulations such as the Basel Convention.”
The motion is meant to ensure that e-waste recycling and disposal programs properly recycle materials in such a manner as to protect human health and the environment. Some e-waste product stewardship programs have been criticized for using contractors who act as middlemen, collecting materials that are eventually shipped to China and other developing countries where recycling occurs without environmental protection or health and safety protocols (e.g., burning off toxic plastic wire insulation in open pits to recover copper).