Electronic Waste (E-Waste)

[Note: Electronic devices contain personal data that should be removed before donating, re-selling or recycling]

What is it? 

Computers are getting smaller and screens are getting bigger; tablets and smart phones are getting smaller AND bigger; TVs and computers are becoming the same product … who can keep up? All these innovations and cool new gadgets lead to increasing amounts of electronic waste (e-waste). Because technology advances at such a high rate, manyelectronicdevices become “trash” after a few short years of use.  

What is the issue? 

Electronics contain valuable metals such as silver, palladium and copper that can be harvested to make new products. Recycling electronic waste also keeps potentially harmful substances out of our landfills. E-waste can include toxic ingredients such as flame retardants in plastics, lead in old computer monitors and TV’s, mercury in LCD screens and more. 

Where can it go? 

In Canada, all provinces have programs to recycle electronic waste. The majority of these are operated by Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA), an industry-led, non-profit organization. EPRA follows a strict standard for how electronics are handled that incorporates provisions for worker safety, data security, and responsible e-waste recyclingIn Saskatchewan, EPRA-SK collects electronics via SARCAN depots, some retailers and one-day community collection events. The program also collects directly from larger businesses and institutions. SARCAN ships the electronics to approved processors where the materials are broken down into their parts and the pieces are recycled into new products.  

If the item is a product that SARCAN does not accept, check our Waste Reduction Hub for other options. There are voluntary programs for recycling specific electronic items, like the ones offered by SaskTel and London Drugs. 

What happens after? 

Once collected, the electronics are sent to audited and approved recyclers for processing, where they are broken down and sorted into their components. Materials such as glass, plastic, and heavy metals are recovered and put back into the manufacturing stream to make new products while substances of concern such as mercury and lead are dealt with in an environmentally safe manner. 

How can I reduce? 

  • Re-evaluate whether you really need that extra electronic device. Try to find electronics that will serve multiple functions. 

  • Extend the life of your electronics by keeping them clean, using a protective case, and avoiding overcharging the battery. 

  • Look for environmentally friendly products that are labeled 'Energy Star' or are certified by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). 

  • If the item is still usable, consider giving it to a friend or relative, donating it to an electronics reuse agency, or selling it on kijiji.