By Andrew Mitchell
One of the fastest growing and challenging forms of consumer waste is electronic waste, or e-waste. A 2003 study by Environment Canada discovered that Canadians throw away 140,000 tonnes of computer equipment, phones, televisions, stereos, homes, and small appliances each year, or roughly 4.5 kilograms per person.
Three years later that statistic has almost certainly grown.
While landfill space is always a concern, one of the biggest issues of e-waste is a lot of waste materials are toxic, such as lead from CRT monitors, lithium and cadmium from circuit boards and batteries, PCBs from circuit boards, and mercury from batteries, circuit boards and wiring. Various plastics used in electronics also carry toxic fire retardants. Even in small quantities these substances can be harmful to humans, animals and plants.
At the same time some of the materials used in electronics are rare, valuable and can be recycled for a small cost. Although there is no mandatory program in place just yet, the B.C. government announced in December plans for a standard e-waste recycling system.
Starting in June companies that manufacture and sell electronics in B.C. and Canada will be required to charge a recycling fee up front, while the province will set up a network of permanent and mobile collection services throughout the province using a mix of private and public facilities. All the companies that process these materials will have to comply with standards being developed by Electronic Products Stewardship Canada, and auditors will work to ensure companies are meeting those standards with regular inspections.
For the Sea to Sky region, one new company has started e-waste recycling. To introduce themselves and the services they offer, Chiefs Metals Agency (CMA) of Squamish is holding free e-waste collection in Whistler from Jan. 19-20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at municipal compactor sites in Function Junction and Nesters, in cooperation with the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
According to the company website, CMA is certified by the International Association of E-Waste Recyclers, and will offer a pick-up and drop-off service through its Willow Crescent shop.
All sorting will take place at the shop, with the separated materials going to companies in the Lower Mainland that will resell them for reuse in manufacturing.
The owner, operator of CMA, Guenter Frankenberg has 10 years experience with e-waste through his family business, and is certified by the German program to handle all forms of electronic waste. When the provincial and national standards are finalized he will earn those certifications as well.
“We still have a lot of details to discuss with authorities, and we’re meeting with the SLRD to discuss a few ideas,” he said. “My basic idea is to implement the same system we have in Germany which is to open all of the (waste and recycling) collection sites throughout the year for the public to drop off their e-waste, as well as businesses and industries.” CMA will also pick up e-waste for commercial clients.