Ontarians have no excuse for tossing old iPods in the trash as a province-wide recycling program doubles its list of devices and drop-off locations. Torontonians get special curbside treatment and free e-waste bags for tired gadgets.

Recycling electronics as easy as taking out the trash

Recycling gadgets like iPods, cell phones and digital cameras just became easier for Ontario residents as a province-wide electronic recycling program led by the Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) moves into Phase 2 of its plan.

Forty-four electronic devices now qualify for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) program, an industry-developed plan approved by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and funded by electronics manufacturers and importers.

Phase 1, which launched in April 2009, allowed eco-friendly Ontarians to drop-off devices like computers, monitors, printers, disk drives, keyboards, mice, fax machines and TVs for recycling free of charge at 167 locations across the province.

Phase 2, scheduled to launch exactly one year later, extends the list of recyclable electronics to include devices like MP3 players, digital cameras, cell phones, VCRs, DVD players and radios. The number of drop-off sites has more than doubled, to more than 500 locations.

Ontarians who wish to prevent their old electronic equipment from leaking toxic residues and hazardous waste into the environment are encouraged to visit the new dowhatyoucan.ca site to find their closest OES-approved collection location.

Torontonians are the exception to the rule. Instead of visiting a drop-off site, all residents need to do is take out the trash – and make sure their electronics are placed neatly beside it. 

The City of Toronto’s electronics diversion program, which has provided curbside electronics recycling since September 2009, accepts all OES Phase 1 and Phase 2 products. Toronto is the first and only city in Canada to provide curbside electronics recycling to its residents.

Residents can place large electronics items on the ground (smaller items should be placed in a cardboard box) next to their garbage bins on garbage collection days. This spring, the city will provide bags specifically designated for electronics waste free of charge. Specially designated electronic waste collection containers for apartment dwellers are also in the works.

OES announced the details of Phase 2 with City of Toronto Mayor David Miller and Ontario Minister of the Environment John Gerretsen at a launch event on Tuesday at the City of Toronto Reuse Centre, one of the OES-approved locations.

Roughly one-third of all electronic waste (commercial and residential) is currently recycled in Ontario, said Gerretsen. “We want to see that grow over the next five years to at least two-thirds,” he said.

Gerretsen’s plans for the province don’t stop there. “But we can still do better than that. Our ultimate goal and aim is to close our landfill sites … I’m sure that you will agree, if you looked at our document towards zero waste, we can do it if we really put our mind to it,” he said.

Gerretsen congratulated the City of Toronto’s efforts at curbside recycling. “I am absolutely positively convinced that in a few years, many of the other municipalities will be taking up this challenge as well,” he said.

Toronto has diverted more than 4,000 tons of electronics and the city’s goal is to reach 70 per cent diversion from landfill, said Miller. “People want to do the right thing … making it easy for them and simple allows them to do exactly that,” he said.

The city receives funding from OES to offset some of the costs of its electronics diversion program.

Gerretsen and Miller unveiled examples of an aggressive ad campaign introduced by Carol Hochu, executive director of OES. The province-wide, multimedia campaign uses the “Do what you can” slogan and is scheduled to launch April 1.

The campaign will include digital ads on 10 electronic billboards in six cities, all 256 TTC subway platforms in Toronto, and transit ads inside buses in nine municipalities across Ontario, plus all GO Trains across the GTA, said Hochu. Print ads will appear in weekly community newspapers and streaming video online ads will be present on popular Web sites and social networks, she said.

“Recycling electronics just got easier. The reason to participate is a simple one – to do a better job of keeping waste electronics out of landfill, all we ask is that you do what you can,” said Hochu.

There are several ways businesses can get involved, such as organizing their own in-house collection event, said Hochu. “We are happy to work with companies to try to get some of that material out of cubicles and offices,” she said.

Businesses are “best to touch base with OES to set up a special collection event,” she said. “If they want to do ongoing collection, the first step is to call us and to make some arrangements.”

OES statistics show that nearly four out of five Ontarians have at least one type of electronics waste at home, said Hochu. “I’m sure that stat is equally good for businesses,” she said.

“In 2009, we planted the seeds, we built the infrastructure and began the education process … in 2010, tremendous efforts will be focused on educating, inspiring and mobilizing Ontario residents and businesses to recycle more types of waste electronics, more often and in more convenient locations,” said Hochu.

OES is responsible for implementing WEEE in co-operation with Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) on behalf of the Ontario government.

The 44 devices include: amplifiers, audio and video players and records, cameras, cell phones, desktop and laptop computers, peripherals, copiers, digital cameras, fax machines, monitors, pagers and PDAs, printers, radios, receivers, scanners, speakers, telephones and answering machines, tuners, turntables, TVs and video projectors. 

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