August 13, 2007

BC launches industry-led e-waste stewardship program

Enhanced provincial recycling regulations which came into effect in British Columbia on August 1 are the foundation for a new, industry-led program for the safe and proper handling of electronic waste (e-waste).

Based on the user-pay principle, the Return-It Electronics stewardship program developed by the Electronics Stewardship Association of BC (ESABC) will be funded by an industry-set environmental handling charge paid by consumers on the purchase of new electrical and electronic equipment. End-of-life products with no further potential for re-use will be accepted for recycling free of charge at designated collection locations province-wide. Authorized collection sites will be identified by a Return-It Electronics symbol.

The not-for-profit ESABC, which represents the majority of electronics producers selling products in BC, has contracted Encorp Pacific to collect and recycle computers, monitors, desktop printers and TVs. The program will facilitate metal and plastic recovery and re-use, divert e-waste from municipal landfills and keep end-of-life electronics products from being shipped to developing nations where they could be processed unsafely.

The Return-It Electronics program will accept: desktop computers; computer monitors and accessories such as mouse, keyboard and cables; desktop printers; desktop fax machines; and televisions. Stereos, CD/DVD players and cellular phones are not accepted at this time.

Consumers, producers and retailers of new electronics products, not the general tax-paying public, will carry the cost of the program. As of the August 1 launch date, an environmental handling fee levied on the sale of new products in the designated categories will be used to fund the program.

Environmental handling fees on new products are:

* Televisions $15-$45 (depending on size)

* Desktop Computers $10 (including accessories)

* Desktop Printers $8

* Notebook computers $5

* Monitors $12

The ESABC was established by manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders in response to the British Columbia recycling regulation amendment of February 2006. Its e-waste management program, approved by the BC Ministry of Environment in December 2006, is the only one approved so far by the BC government although other organizations are also submitting recycling and re-use plans for approval.

Other re-use programs for functional electronics are currently operating independently as well, and the provincial government intends to encourage closer collaboration between re-use and recycling facilities.

"We believe this is an important initiative for the environment and are committed to helping collect these products and ensuring they are recycled in a safe and responsible manner," said ESABC chair Sean De Vries, who is also environmental manager for Panasonic Canada. "With our Encorp partnership and their existing infrastructure of depots and proven capabilities in managing BC's beverage recycling program, we are well-positioned to administer the new program.

"Research has shown us that a third of the BC population--approximately 1.4 million people--claims to have obsolete electronics equipment in their home," De Vries continued, adding "And of those people, over half are not aware of businesses or organizations in their local area that would accept their obsolete or broken electronics for recycling."

In addition to the Return-It Electronics symbol, collection sites throughout BC will be listed at www.electronicsrecyclingbc.ca. Encorp Pacific (Canada) is a federally incorporated not-for-profit product stewardship corporation with a mandate to develop and manage consumer-friendly and cost-effective systems to recover and recycle regulated consumer products. More information is available on-line at www.encorp.ca.

"Canadians discard over 140,000 tonnes of electronics each year, which places a sizeable burden on municipal landfills," said Environment Minister Barry Penner. "That waste contains toxic metals like lead, mercury and cadmium, which can end up in surface and groundwater. Because those materials are valuable and reusable, old electronics are often illegally exported for salvage to developing countries with very poor labour practices. BC's new regulations require industry to safeguard against such questionable activities."

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