Armed with statistics from Environment Canada of more than 67,000 tons of electronic junk and 134 million unwanted computers and computer systems in Canada by 2005, Dell Canada Inc. recently launched a donation program for used computers in an effort to provide technology for schools and charities.
“There is a need for the public and private sector to work in partnership to bring attention to the e-waste issue in Canada,” said Frank Fuser, director, services with Dell Inc. in Canada.
At a recent launch event in Toronto, held at a chilly warehouse for refurbished computers being recycled into the technology system again, Dell said it has been working over the past several months to address the growing concerns associated with e-waste.
The online program will be the main way customers and small businesses can donate their used compu-ters, Dell said.
All brands of computers are accepted. People who want to donate can go to www.dell.ca/recycling and determine which agency they would like to receive their old computer. From there, the recipient organization will contact the donor to arrange for drop-off or pick-up of the equipment. Fuser said the program is designed to find an easy way to extend the life of a computer.
Through Dell’s partners, the computers can be reused, refurbished and recycled to serve both students and individuals, as well as non-profit organizations and schools, which either cannot afford technology or don’t have access to it.
Dell has three major partners in the program, including the National Cristina Foundation, a non-profit organization that places used technology with local non-profit organizations and public agencies in Canada; Reboot Canada, a non-profit charity that provides computer hardware, training and technical support to charities and people with limited access to technologies; and Industry Canada’s Computers for Schools program, which collects, repairs and refurbishes do-nated surplus computers and distributes them to schools and libraries across Canada.
There are two central issues around e-waste, the first being the rate at which Canadian landfills are being filled up with computers, monitors and other related devices.
The other is the need for recycling programs to find ways to reuse all parts of a computer — for example, using the metal for jewelry, or finding ways to reuse the lead commonly found in PCs. This type of recycling can also look for ways to refurbish computers and reuse entire systems.
A little over a year ago, an environmental advocacy group publicly criticized Dell for having a primitive recycling program. Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. learned quickly from Dell’s experience and set up their own computer “take-back” recycling programs.
Dell has also been a target for environmental activists concerned about toxic substances such as lead, mercury and flame retardants that can seep into landfills and eventually into water tables.
It is HP Canada Co.’s goal to manufacture without the use of lead, mercury and cadmium, “the three heavy metals that give most people concern,” by 2006, said Frances Edmonds, recycling manager at HP.
Michael Vanderpol, program co-ordinator for the National Office of Pollution Prevention in Gatineau, Que., said these three heavy metals are part of the 34,000 metric tonnes of waste that IT-related equipment and peripherals send to landfills annually.
This translates into one per cent of the total municipal solid waste stream in Canada.
Without directly referring to one specific issue, Pat Nathan, sustainable business director with Dell Inc., said Dell has been working to change the perception and overcome some of the comments that have been associated with the company’s recycling program.
“No computer should go to waste,” she said. “No computer should be buried and go to a landfill because they can be reused.”
There is potential to give those unwanted computers to people who don’t have access to technology, she said, adding that 30 per cent of consumers have valuable computers around their homes that can be recycled.