At one time, recycling had little place in the day-to-day lives of Canadians. Much has changed. Today people across the country routinely fill bins or travel to recycling depots with their plastic, paper or food waste, knowing that the material will be properly handled as part of their municipal recycling program.
Now it’s time to shift attention to another problem: the growing volume of electronic waste. As technology continues to grow and evolve, so does the volume of old, unwanted electronics cluttering offices and households across Canada. In Ontario alone, for example, it’s estimated that approximately 91,000 tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment are available for reuse, refurbishment and recycling each year. Only one quarter of that waste, however, is actually disposed of properly. The remainder is either sent to landfill or exported to unknown and possibly unregulated locations overseas.
Improper disposal of electronic devices like televisions, computers and mobile phones can pose serious environmental and security risks. For starters, much of today’s e-waste contains potentially harmful components like batteries, mercury, lead, inks and toners. It’s especially important to divert these substances from landfill, where they can leak into the soil and affect water quality. The improper disposal of e-waste also represents a misuse of resources, given that approximately 90 per cent of valuable base materials such as plastic, metal and glass can be recovered from electronic devices.
Security risks are another significant issue. Discarded computers and other devices with hard drives or SIM cards that haven’t been properly cleared or destroyed may leave confidential information exposed to misuse.
Working with OES
Formed in 2007, OES is the not-for-profit organization charged with implementing the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – or e-waste – program in Ontario. The program, modeled in part after existing initiatives in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, was developed in cooperation with Waste Diversion Ontario under the Waste Diversion Act.
OES is charged with diverting as much e-waste from disposal as possible. It’s a broad mandate that covers many objectives – everything from developing a collection system of depots and events, ensuring accurate tracking of waste electronics from collection to their final destination, to raising awareness via a province-wide promotion and education campaign, and much more.
Today, businesses and residents can drop off their unwanted items at one of more than 500 collection points across the province, where OES ensures that the material is reused, refurbished or recycled properly.
The Salvation Army, for example, represents one of the largest and most successful organizations within the OES network of approved collectors. In fact, according to Bill May, Facilities and Logistics Manager for the Salvation Army, since the Salvation Army joined the program, reactions from local Ontarians have been overwhelmingly positive.
“The public is relieved that there is some place they can take these electronics that have been cluttering basements and garages,” said May. “They’re happy that they can come to a place like the Salvation Army, which is in a multitude of communities, and they can do so free of charge – there’s no fee to drop off at the OES and they know that it’s being handled in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.”
What can your business do to participate?
Partner with an approved processor in the OES network. You can also choose to partner with an approved processor in the network. Visit www.ontarioelectronicstewardship.ca/recyclers/recycler.html for a list of OES approved processors.
Become a collector in the OES network. Any site that volunteers to participate, registers with OES, meets the OES performance and compliance requirements and is approved as a collection site is eligible to become a collector. Collection sites within the network receive a weight-based financial incentive for the designated materials that they receive, sort and prepare for transport by an OES-approved service provider. Visit www.ontarioelectronicstewardship.ca for more information.
Hold an e-drive event. Simply contact email@example.com six to eight weeks in advance to inform the OES Events team of your plans and request resources that will help you get started. As well, visit the OES web site and download the “Host Your Own Event” toolkit that contains helpful tips and advice on getting an event off the ground.
Help raise awareness. The OES website also has links to videos and brochures that can be easily downloaded and distributed. The www.recycleyourelectronics.ca website even has a handy tool that lets visitors easily find their nearest e-waste drop-off point.
Written by: Carol Hochu, Ontario Electronic Stewardship
Carol Hochu joined Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) in 2008 as its first Executive Director, to lead the implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Program. OES is a not-for-profit industry organization that oversees the safe and responsible reuse and recycling of waste electronics through a vast network of approved collection sites across the province.
A respected and knowledgeable advocate for the environment, Carol is a distinguished industry speaker. Listed in Who’s Who of Canadian Women and Women in the Lead, Carol is a Certified Association Executive, and holds an MBA from Schulich School of Business at York University, and a BASc from the University of Guelph.