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Pilot program to expand electronics recycling

Photo submitted by Anne Auriat

Masha Scheele

The Alberta government approved a two-year $43 million pilot project to expand the electronics recycling program.

“Everyone is really happy about this in the recycling industry. They’ve added about 600 different kinds of household items that can be accepted and go through the program,” said Anne Auriat, manager of the Edson and District Recycling Society, which oversees Hinton’s Rowan Street Recycling Centre.

The expanded electronics program will kick off on Sept. 12, the same day as the annual Fall Toxic Roundup.

“We’re following the COVID rules so it might look a little different but we will be doing that,” Auriat said.

Staff will be serving hot dogs, hamburgers, and canned pop, and there will also be some draws.

The spring toxic roundup was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions and this event will be limited to a certain number of people at a time.

Auriat added that the issue is making sure there is a good stream of people coming through while managing the numbers at the same time. All staff will be wearing the proper personal protective equipment.

“You can bring your tires down, your oil products, all of your household hazardous,” Auriat said.

The Town of Hinton is organizing their annual cleanup the week prior to the Toxic Roundup, from Sept. 8 to 11.

“We’re working in conjunction with the Town on that,” Auriat said.

The Town noted that residents should contact Hinton’s Infrastructure Services to be placed on a list for the free pickup and are expected to have their waste out and ready to be collected on collection day.

Due to the environmental regulations at the landfill, residents are asked to sort refuse in separate piles of wood, metal, furniture, tires and trees.

After the Toxic Roundup, electronic items no longer have to go in scrap metal or into the landfill, but will be accepted at the Rowan Street Recycling Centre.

Auriat added that there is a huge chunk of microwaves that end up in the landfill and the expanded electronics program will enable those items to be recycled and repurposed. 

The Rowan Street location is open every day of the week, and attendants will help residents put the items in the right spot. 

“These items all have lots of heavy metals in them, like mercury, lead, phosphorus, so it’s really good that it’s being diverted and not put into the landfill,” Auriat said.

The expanded electronics program is a two-year pilot project that has been in the making for 10 or 15 years, she added.

Alberta set up Canada’s first end-of-life electronics recycling program in 2004. 

Over time, the electronics program in the province stalled, and this is the first step forward.

The Edson and District Recycling Society takes all materials to a processor in Edmonton, Shanked Computer Recycling Inc., that takes all items apart into various components.

“The real important part is all the wiring and all the precious metal in the circuit boards. They take it back and everything gets recycled,” Auriat said.

Part of this pilot is also about collecting data, to record which items are being recycled more and how they can better address these items.

The Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA) will conduct community and stakeholder engagement prior to launching the two-year pilot, but this pilot could inform the possibility of a permanently expanded electronics program.

ARMA acts on behalf of the province to oversee all aspects of end-of-life processing of electronics, paint, tires and used oil materials.

Reserve funds will be used by ARMA to recycle up to 24,600 tonnes of electronics products that were not accepted previously in the program.

“An expanded electronics program has the potential to inject $30 million annually into Alberta’s economy and support 360 additional full-time jobs in the recycling sector,” stated Jason Nixon, minister of environment and parks.

Currently, municipalities do not receive compensation to manage electronics outside ARMA’s program, but with this expansion, municipalities will receive funding for collecting additional electronics.

The expanded electronics recycling products include audio visual equipment, telecom, cell phone and wireless devices, electronic gaming equipment, small home appliances, portable power tools, toys, musical instruments and solar panels at no additional cost to consumers, according to the provincial press release.

There are a couple of exceptions to the list of electronics, including lamps, lawn mowers or weed whippers.

“Lawn tools because some of those are gas related and so they want to just say no to the whole line,” Auriat explained.

This expanded program would divert up to an additional 12,300 tonnes from landfills annually, which is the equivalent weight of 8,785 average cars.

Since 1992, ARMA recycled 10 million electronics, which is an average of six per household in Alberta.

According to ARMA’s website, electronics are quickly becoming one of the largest contributors of waste around the world, with 20 to 50 tonnes of e-waste generated each year, and only 15 to 20 per cent of it being recycled.

In 2018, the Alberta recycling sector’s annual economic value was estimated at $700 million in gross value add (GVA) and created more than 7,500 direct, indirect and induced jobs, from which $180M and 1,570 jobs are attributed to ARMA specific programs, stated the provincial press release.

Of the $180M in GVA, the industry injects into Alberta’s economy, about $50M and 400 full-time equivalent jobs are attributed to ARMA’s current electronics recycling program.

There are currently 365 municipal electronics collection sites throughout the province, within 20-minutes from 96 per cent of Albertans.

Toxic Roundup day will run from 10 am until 2 pm on Sept. 12. For more information contact Rowan Street Recycling.

Contact Infrastructure Services at 780-865-2634 for further information on the annual town clean up and to be placed on the pickup list.