Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    Electronics recycling gaining business currency in B.C.

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver September 11-17, 2007; issue 933

    High Tech Office column

    I regularly see computers, monitors and printers sitting on curbsides and in laneways, left there by owners who don’t know how to dispose of them. As promised, a B.C.-wide electronics-recycling program came into effect on August 1, bearing the logo “Return-It Electronics.” I’d be surprised if it has made much of an impact on public awareness yet, despite the full-page ad in local community newspapers taken out recently by the Electronics Stewardship Association of BC.

    The text-dense ad let readers know that they can now recycle desktop and notebook computers, monitors, associated keyboards and cabling, printers, fax machines and televisions. Environmental handling fees ranging from $5 for new notebook computers to $45 for some new TV models have been tacked onto sales of hardware covered by the program. Other electronics items such as cell phones or stereos are not included.

    There’s no curbside pickup. Don’t leave your unwanted ink-jet printer in your blue recycling box. Instead, items need to be dropped off at designated collection sites. A list of sites can be found online at In Vancouver, for instance, six out of seven listed sites are at branches of the Salvation Army. Organizations with larger quantities of recyclable-electronics can arrange pickup.

    Outside the Lower Mainland, would-be electronics recyclers may have a harder time. I checked for the Sunshine Coast. Designated options all require a ferry ride: the website listed depots in Powell River, Parksville and Nanaimo.

    ESABC’s ad recommended re-use before recycling. However, online it notes that items brought to one of its depots will not be reused. Instead it will be broken down into scrap for recycling.

    ESABC has contracted with Encorp Pacific to manage the electronics recycling program. Encorp notes that it will not be shipping electronic scrap overseas for processing. There has been controversy surrounding local recyclers shipping scrap to China and other overseas destinations. Last December, for example, 50 containers bound for China and Hong Kong loaded with an estimated 500,000 kilograms of metal and plastic computer waste were seized at the Port of Vancouver by Environment Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency.

    ESABC warns: “If you choose to donate to a charity, be sure to research how the charity uses the equipment and how they will dispose of it when it is no longer useful.”

    That can be difficult for prospective donors. Last spring, I contacted a local organization that claimed it redistributed working donations, recycling only what couldn’t be re-used. I was appalled, however, when it collected the equipment I had in storage. The monitors, printers and more were working before they were roughly tossed into their truck. They were scrap when they came out.

    ESABC and Encorp are not recommending individual organizations for donation. In a December article, Brock MacDonald of the Recycling Council of BC recommended two organizations: Computers for Schools ( and Aldergrove-based Genesis Recycling (

    I recently visited the newly opened Free Geek Community Technology Centre on Second Avenue near Main Street ( Like its Portland, Oregon, parent organization, the Vancouver chapter promises to take all computer equipment, working or not. Volunteers learn to assess the usability of donated equipment and to erase any data remaining on hard drives. Equipment is disassembled into usable parts and then reassembled into working systems. Individuals can receive a working recycled computer after 24 hours of volunteer time; non-profit organizations can apply for free equipment.

    Free Geek volunteers offer workshops from beginning computer use to PHP website programming. The organization sells parts and equipment in an electronics thrift store and encourages innovative recycling of older gear ranging from using motherboard batteries in bike lights to renting older systems as props in movie shoots. •

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan