British Columbia gets a head start on imprending E-Waste problem
B.C. Government Takes on
By Luke T. Johnson
It seems like computers become
obsolete before they even get out of the box, so it is little wonder
that electronic waste is one of the major new challenges in waste management.
A report issued on Friday by
Statistics Canada notes that electronic waste is one of the “many
new challenges” that face the waste management industry today. It
cites a study by Environment Canada, which estimates that some 140,000
tonnes of e-waste are discarded in landfills each year, a number that
continues to increase. A recent GVRD study estimates that a total of
19,500 tonnes of e-waste finds its way into B.C. landfills.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment
has been working to combat this problem, however, and is finishing up
the first stage in developing a provincial recycling program for “e-waste.”
In October, the Ministry released
a policy paper for a 30-day consultation review process. Its purpose
was to collect feedback from the electronics industry and the public
as they prepare to draft a new schedule for the Recycling Regulation,
which replaced the Beverage Container Product Stewardship Program Regulation
and Post-Consumer Stewardship Program Regulation in 2004.
“We are working with the
electronics industry to reduce e-waste in landfills by implementing
an industry-led stewardship program by 2007,” said Environment Minister
Barry Penner in a press release.
Types of electronic waste that
are set to be included on the schedule include computers and accessories,
monitors, desktop printers, and televisions. Many of these items contain
toxic materials such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, which leach out
into the soil and potentially contaminate groundwater and air quality.
Don McDonald, communications
director for the Ministry, said that it is about time for the government
to start doing something about e-waste.
“Right now, we don’t recycle
(electronics), period,” he said. “We need to find a recycling program
that is going to be workable, so that these things are not in our landfills.”
He stressed the importance
of “industry product stewardship,” that is, teaming with leaders
in the electronics industry to develop waste management strategies.
He said the first step is making sure less hazardous materials go into
manufacturing products in the first place.
One industry-led organization
that has begun working towards facilitating pragmatic approaches in
managing e-waste disposal is the not-for-profit Electronics Product
Stewardship Canada. It is made up of several leading electronics producers
such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sanyo.
C.E.O. David Betts does not
necessarily see e-waste as a problem right now, but realizes that something
must be done before it becomes a problem.
“There is a very small quantity
of hazardous material (in computers), so it will take a long, long,
long, long time to leach out and cause any human suffering,” he said.
He said he does not want to downplay the risk, but also does not want
to create hysteria.
The industry itself is trying
to confront the problem while they “wait for a solution” from the
government, Betts said.
B.C. has already established
several successful industry-led product stewardship programs for paint,
medicines, pesticides, beverage containers, and oil. The government
is also currently trying to develop a product stewardship program for
Electronics recycling takes
place mainly in the private sector currently. Genesis Recycling Ltd.,
based in Surrey, is the only national e-waste recycling company in Canada.
They recycle and refurbish upwards of 200,000 computers a year.