Electronic Product Stewardship Canada

Electronic Product Stewardship Canada (EPSC) and the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) have teamed up to aid the province of Nova Scotia in implementing a program plan to keep local electronics dealers in line with the regulations that come into effect on Feb. 1.

The regulation was issued a year ago, and resulted in the EPSC and the RCC establishing the non-profit governing body, the Atlantic Canada Electronics Stewardship (ACES).

The two organizations called upon the Resource Recovery Fund Board (RRFB) to craft a plan, which will require brand owners and retailers to become members of the ACES, since it is the only government-approved electronics-based stewardship council, according to Retail Council of Canada national manager of government relations (environment) Rachel Kagan. This commitment will see participants rolling out recycling campaigns in their stores, along with implementing an environmental handling fee that will cover the end-of-life cost of their products. (The fee ranges from $5 for a laptop up to $45 for a large flat-screen TV.)

Products covered under the first phase of the project include desktop computers, laptops, printers, and televisions, said Kagan. Phase 2, expected to begin next February, will include cellphones, scanners, telephones, fax machines, and audio-visual equipment.

To do the environmentally right thing, they formerly would have had to pay for this, and now it’s free for them.Jay Illingworth, VP>TextThis approach differs from the ones that have come before it, according to Jay Illingworth, vice-president of the EPCS, who said that the two associations wanted to create a new type of stewardship. “Europe is more of a top-down structure, with municipalities tasked with the collection, and in the States, it’s more of a voluntary program. We needed regulation that was industry-led and mandatory,” he said.

One way of enforcing the recycling program is a landfill ban. Electronics covered under the program put out in the garbage will not be picked up and will be slapped with a sticker that instructs the owner to take the item to the nearest depot. One way that Illingworth hopes to ensure a steady stream of drop-offs is the fact that the depot is the same one as for bottles; a media campaign will help drive the program as well.

IT managers in Nova Scotia actually stand to benefit from these new rules, said Illingworth. The RRFB will arrange pick-ups for large lots of old hardware from businesses and organizations. “It’s a really positive thing for IT managers,” Illingworth said. “To do the environmentally right thing, they formerly would have had to pay for this, and now it’s free for them.”

British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta has all implemented similar programs (although Alberta’s is government-driven, rather than industry-led), and have seen some success with them, according to Illingworth, who said that the first three months of the British Columbia program saw four million tons of electronics recycled.

The EPSC is also touting the way that it will be recycling these products. “There’s a lot of potential for abuse,” said Illingworth. Electronic products are often sent off to China or third-world countries to be “processed” (which, according to videos of such practices, said Illingworth, can often entail “a kid just banging away at these computers”) in a way not in line with the Basel Convention, a recycling standard that Canada adheres to.

Illingworth said that all recycling vendors will have to go through a strict qualification program to ensure that they recycle properly, which includes removing hazardous materials such as batteries, toner, and mercury, and then shredding them, with source materials such as copper, aluminum, plastic, and glass going to reputable recyclers, who often can convert the materials toward new electronics. He pointed out that IT managers approached by brokers—especially those operating in the four provinces governed by these regulations—for their e-waste should steer clear of them.

Said Illingworth: “They probably ship overseas where the cost of recycling isn’t as high because they don’t do it in an environmentally-conscious way.”