Receiving an electronic gift (computer, TV, tablet, smart phone, etc.) is exciting and now that the holidays are over, some new gadgets may have found their way into your home. Looking after these electronic gagets is important to you, and making sure you dispose of the redundant electronics responsibly should be just as important.
According to the United Nations StEP Initiative the global volume of electronic waste, or e-waste, is expected to grow 33% over the next four years. In 2012 over 50 million tonnes – or about 7 kilograms for each person on the planet – of e-waste was generated worldwide. Canadians generate 24.7 kilograms, or three times the global average, per person. StEP reports that e-waste is the world’s fastest growing waste stream.
What’s a consumer to do?
Fortunately, Manitoba has a product stewardship program for electrical and electronic equipment managed by the Manitoba Electronic Products Recycling Association (MB EPRA) that came into effect August 1, 2012. The product stewardship program diverts electronics away from landfills and illegal export to collection depots where they can be safely dismantled and recycled. Program costs are recovered through an environmental handling fee collected on the purchase of new electronic equipment. The fee ranges from $0.40 to $23.25 depending on the type of product purchased.
Much more information about Manitoba’s e-waste program, including a comprehensive list of all the materials accepted by the program and the locations of recycling depots across Winnipeg and throughout the province, can be found on their website: Manitoba EPRA.
Why does e-waste recycling matter?
Surprisingly, although Canadians generate almost 25 kilograms of e-waste per capita annually, we only recycle about 5 kilograms of e-waste per capita per year. The remainder of these items are simply stored in basements and garages or improperly disposed of in landfills. When e-waste isn’t recycled correctly we risk having a number of toxins like lead, mercury, cadmium, and polybromimated bipheyls entering the natural environment.
E-waste recycling is also a highly efficient way to ‘mine’ for over 60 different materials including plastic, glass, aluminum, copper, silver, platinum, gold and rare earth metals. Electronics Product Stewardship Canada estimates that e-waste recyclers can recover about one kilogram of gold, 400 grams of palladium, 10 kilograms of silver and 420 kilograms of copper from about 50,000 cell phones. An underground gold mining operation would have to remove about 180 tonnes of rock to recover one kilogram of gold using processes with far greater environmental impacts including the release of almost 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
When a new piece of electronics comes into your life, remember that throwing the old item into the garbage is no longer an option. Dispose of your electronic waste responsibly with a trip to your closest e-waste depot.