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, many electronic devices 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.
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 recycling. In Saskatchewan, EPRA-SK/Recycle My Electronics collects electronics via SARCAN depots, some retailers, some municipal landfills / transfer stations and community collection events. EPRA-SK is funded through Environmental Handling Fees (EHF) that are applied on the sale of all new electronic products. The program also collects directly from larger businesses and institutions. The collected electronics are shipped to approved processors within North America where the materials are broken down into the various metals, plastics and glasses. This materials is reintroduced to the manufacturing supply chain and used in the production of new products.
If the item is a product that EPRA-SK/Recycle My Electronics 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 metals are recovered and put back into the manufacturing stream to make new products. Substances of concern, such as mercury and lead, are dealt with in an environmentally safe manner. Check out EPRA's The Journey of End-of-Life Electronics .
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, or donating or selling it.