Canadian governments engage in e-waste clean up

Reduce, reuse and recycle don’t just apply to pop cans and water bottles. Computers, printers and monitors – known as e-waste – are also being added to that waste-reduction pile in the name of protecting the environment.

Last week was Waste Reduction Week in Canada, an event which saw governments across the country stepping up efforts to improve their respective e-waste management initiatives.

One of the provinces that participated in last week’s waste reduction awareness was Manitoba, where Ministers Jim Rondeau and Stan Struthers announced an e-waste roundup project that collected between 250 to 300 tonnes of e-waste at 19 depots in communities across Manitoba.

“We encourage businesses, Manitobans, and everyone to reduce waste,” said Jim Ferguson, waste reduction co-ordinator for Green Manitoba.

“Our initiative on e-waste and the Product Stewardship Regulation is intended to bring a formal stewardship responsibility for the distribution and sale of electronic equipment in Manitoba.”

Ferguson added that they have been working on stewardship programs in the province for some time.

“We had public consultations on a packaging stewardship regulation and then these two regulations announced this week for packaging and household hazardous waste are the final two regulations in the series under our stewardship program initiative.”

Ferguson said that in the first phase of the stewardship program, the regulation would apply to products such as rechargeable batteries, televisions, computers, laptops, cellphones, microwaves and all components of those products.

“Once the program is up and running for a full year than we’d be bringing in other digital and video audio equipment later under the umbrella of the stewardship program,” he said.

The City of Toronto has also been stepping up its efforts on e-waste.

Currently, the City is in the process of selecting a vendor to purchase the city’s used technology assets to reduce the amount of e-waste being sent to landfill sites. These vendors would also be responsible for properly disposing the components that are not suitable for re-use in accordance with government environmental regulations, according to City of Toronto spokesperson Alex Mozo via e-mail.

“The City also has an IT Asset Disposal Policy that allows the donation of surplus assets to the City of Toronto’s grant-receiving, not-for-profit organizations and to other not-for-profit organizations throughout Toronto,” said Mozo.

Under the Technical Exchange Program of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) the city can also donate surplus technology assets to Soyapongo and Botswana, according to Mozo.

In Manitoba, the public has been actively joining the drive to reduce waste, said Ferguson. He noted that approximately 345 citizens have participated in the electric hybrid vehicle rebate program, and that taxi drivers in particular have been receptive to that program.

“On the e-waste side, we did run a three-month drop-off for residential recycling of electronic waste, televisions and computers, and we collected almost 300 tonnes of material,” said Ferguson.

Other provinces have also been initiating e-waste stewardship programs, including B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan, he said.

Saskatchewan’s Waste Electronic Equipment Program (SWEEP), for instance, was spearheaded by the Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (EPSC) in response to the Waste Electronic Equipment Regulation issued by the provincial government in October 2005.

“Once fully implemented, our product stewardship program will be the most comprehensive in terms of the household hazardous waste – electronics, tires, and all the other materials, packaging and printed papers as well,” said Ferguson.

The City of Toronto created the Waste Prevention Group this year to work with those divisions whose business, policies or processes create waste for other divisions, according to Mozo.

The city also has a number of campaigns to help educate and encourage residents and businesses to assist with waste reduction.

Here are some of the City of Toronto links that specify how and where to dispose of technology assets:

-How to recycle old computers:

-Taking part in Environment Days (held between April and September):

-The City’s ReUseIt Web site (on various recycling initiatives):

Related links:

Green Manitoba

Saskatchewan Waste Electronic Equipment Program (SWEEP)

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