recycling gaining business currency in B.C.
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
September 11-17, 2007; issue 933
High Tech Office column
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.
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.
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
electronicsrecyclingbc.ca. 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 (www.cfsbc.ca
Aldergrove-based Genesis Recycling (genesisrecycling.ca
I recently visited the newly opened Free Geek Community Technology
Centre on Second Avenue near Main Street (freegeekvancouver.org
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.
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. •