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All those smart phones and tech we love, where do they go?

Renee Tratch
Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 5:40 AM - A broken portable DVD player, two outdated smart phones and a bunch of old chargers await their fate in a junk drawer by the door.

E-waste - old and unused electronics - is piling up thanks to Canadians’ love of the latest tech. The end of life for these beloved devices, however, should never be the trash.

“From a VCR to a television to a computer to a cell phone – all those things can be easily recycled,” explains Cliff Hacking CEO of Canada’s Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA), an industry-led, not-for-profit organization that operates regulated recycling programs at over 2,300 locations across the country.

In fact, close to 97 per cent of the materials from more than 15 million different kinds of electronics are recyclable.

According to the EPRA, each year that keeps 100,000 metric tonnes of old electronics out of landfills and hazardous materials (such as lead from CRT computer monitors and mercury from LCD screens) from leaching into the ground or being illegally exported to wreak havoc on the environment somewhere else.

So, when properly disposed, where do these materials go?

Image courtesy: Floyd Wilde -- Flickr

Operating in eight participating provinces (New Brunswick soon to be joining), EPRA transports old and unused electronics to authorized processors where they are sorted, dismantled and turned back into valuable materials to be returned to the manufacturing chain.

Plastics can be made into pellets, glass reused into new monitors or TVs and steel, aluminum, copper and other minerals removed for use in new products.

Hacking calls this urban mining: “Cell phones and computers have very valuable materials in them – silver, copper, gold and also some rare earth minerals that can be harvested.”

While even the oldest electronics are recycle-ready, a few obsolete items pose some challenges.

“The few things that we have difficulty with are some of the old wood paneling that would have been on some of the very old televisions from floor model televisions or speakers,” he explains, “but we are working through some of these solutions.”

Who pays for it?

Dropping off your e-waste at one of the provincially regulated depots is free. An Environmental Handling Fee (EHF) funds for the process. EHF is charged on the sale of all new electronic products sold in Canada. It’s not a tax, nor refundable; the fee reflects the actual program cost to collect, transport and responsibly recycle each electronic category the end of its useful life.

In Ontario for example the EHF on electronic items range from .07 cents on a new mobile phone to $5 on home audio-visual equipment.

What can be recycled also depends on where you live in Canada.

The EPRA programs recycle a core set of regulated electronics, such as in Newfoundland and Labrador, which accepts TVs, computers, printers, home, vehicle and personal audio-visual products. A few provinces offer a broader range - British Columbia’s list includes electronic toys, medical devices and musical instruments or music-related products with electronics.

Hacking says the biggest e-recyclers in Canada are in Nova Scotia and British Colombia.

After spending 20 years in the manufacturing and selling of technology, for him the last five with the EPRA has been very rewarding.

“I feel very good about what I do every day because of the work we are doing is for future generations.”


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