Electronics recycling program revs up

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Costs covered by levy on new merchandise

Cheryl Chan

Mike Holmberg, 27, of Vancouver thinks the levy on electronic goods to pay for recycling is ‘fantastic.’ Ric Ernst – The Province

A B.C.-wide electronics recycling program starting tomorrow will provide a proper place for e-waste.

Old and broken electronics such as computers, laptops, printers and faxes can be left at recycling depots for free, instead of being dumped in landfills.

The cost will be passed on to consumers who will pay a levy of $10 to $45 on new electronics purchases.

“Landfills are not appropriate places for electronics,” said Malcolm Harvey of Encorp, a non-profit stewardship corporation running the Return-It electronics program.

There’s toxic materials in electronics that could potentially leak out, like lead and mercury.”

The program will also prevent obsolete equipment being shipped to countries such as China or

Nigeria, where they are recycled “in the most appalling conditions,” said Harvey.

About a quarter of B.C. households have old tech equipment gathering dust, he said. In its first year, Encorp expects to receive about 10,000 tonnes of electronics junk.

Victoria’s Hartland landfill receives about 2,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, representing one to two per cent of its total intake, he said.

E-waste dumped in Greater Vancouver Regional District landfills has ballooned from 2,100 tonnes in 1998 to 20,000 tonnes in 2005. This breaks down to about 8,000 tonnes in computers, 3,000 tonnes in monitors, 2,000 tonnes in printers and 7,000 tonnes in TVs, said GVRD engineer Ken Carrusca.

People can bring in their old equipment to one of 70 recycling depots across the province. Three firms will handle the recycling, salvaging usable metal and plastic parts and disposing of hazardous materials safely. Privacy will be the consumer’s responsibility, Harvey said, advising people to “delete the hard drives before bringing it in for recycling.”

Most retailers, covering 80 per cent of the B.C. market, have signed up for the program.

Consumers say they wouldn’t mind paying the additional fee.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Mike Holmberg, 27, who just bought a “completely unnecessary” 22-inch computer monitor to hook up to his stereo. “I love pay-by-use, especially for unnecessary things like alcohol and cigarettes.”

Even if he bought the monitor tomorrow, Holmberg said he wouldn’t mind paying the $12 levy “if it was invisible rather than at the till.”

David Taylor, 41, of Vancouver also agrees with the levy.

“I was recently at the [Kent Avenue] transfer station and there were piles of appliances and computers,” Taylor said. “People trade things in quicker than they should. I think in a way as consumers we should be penalized for over-spending and buying more than we need.”

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– Televisions: $15 to $45, depending on size

– Desktop computers (includes CPUs, mouse, keyboards and cables): $10

– Computer monitors: $12

– Notebook computers (includes laptops, notebook and tablet PCs): $5

– Printers and fax machines: $8


– CD players

– VHS and DVD players


– Cordless phones

– Photocopiers

– Radios

– Computers and TVs that are part of or built in to vehicles, marine vessels or commercial/industrial equipment.


© The Vancouver Province 2007


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