Collection of e-waste expanded in Ontario
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 31, 2009 4:45PM EDT
TORONTO - A network of electronic waste collection sites was launched across Ontario on Tuesday in a bid to divert old televisions and computers from landfills, but consumers may not like the program's impact on retail prices, and not all residents will have the same access to recycling services.
Starting Wednesday, companies that sell electronic products will pay a fee to Ontario Electronic Stewardship, an industry-run organization that will take on the work of reusing and recycling old electronics, as well as pursuing research and development and launching public education programs.
A little less than a third of the province's electronic waste is currently being reused or recycled, and a target of 61 per cent has been set over five years, which would amount to about 160,000 tonnes of garbage being diverted, said Environment Minister John Gerretsen.
"It's all a part of making the producers of the materials responsible ultimately for the reuse or recycling or reprocessing of the material at their end of life cycle," he said Tuesday.
"For every piece of electronic equipment we can keep out of our landfill sites, we're better for it."
The first phase of the program will cover the likes of televisions, computers, mice, keyboards, monitors, printers and fax machines, with fees ranging from 32 cents on computer peripherals to $10.07 for televisions and $13.44 for desktop computers.
Companies can choose whether to absorb the cost or pass it on to consumers, but Gerretsen insisted the money will be spent as intended and won't be used to boost corporate taxes or government revenues.
"The bottom line is this: it's not a tax," he said. "Not one penny is coming into the government coffers."
While the plan has been in the works since October 2007 and was approved by Gerretsen last July, only two-thirds of the province will have access to electronic-waste recycling in the first year of the program.
Gerretsen admitted that northern Ontario residents will likely not have the same access to recycling services as people in the rest of the province, even though the region has by far the worst recycling rates in Ontario.
According to the recycling program's website, dowhatyoucan.ca, northern municipalities like Kenora, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Timmins currently have no local depots where electronic waste can be taken.
Southern cities like Barrie, Niagara Falls and Waterloo are also left out of the program for now.
"There is in the program's plan targets for collection accessibility, so obviously OES and the minister want to ensure all Ontarians have an ample opportunity to easily get to a collection site to deliver their electronics," said Carol Hochu, executive director of the Ontario Electronic Stewardship.
"The network is established now but slowly growing and building, and we will be working ... to not only establish permanent depots for ongoing collection, but also to launch a number of special-event collection days."
Maureen Carter-Whitney, an environmental lawyer with the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, said she's generally supportive of the new recycling program even though it has a few flaws.
"While no program is perfect, it's a good start to build on," she said, adding she has no problem with the price of some consumer goods going up to reflect recycling costs.
"It's a cost of using the product and consuming the product, a societal cost that needs to be borne."
A second phase of the program will collect a long list of other electronics including cameras, cellphones, VCRs, DVD players, turntables and speakers.
Gerretsen also noted recycled products will not be sent overseas, where environmental standards may be lower.