Alberta studies alternatives to manage e-waste

Alberta is stepping up efforts to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous electronics waste equipment being sent to landfill. It recently embarked on a review of current waste regulations, stewardship programs and the existing collection infrastructure in order to develop effective diversion policies. As part of its review, Alberta Environment is consulting with key stakeholders during November and December 2003 to develop a program to be introduced in 2004.

A typical desktop computer monitor contains up to two kilograms of lead, and other electronic equipment may contain small amounts of lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and flame retardants; if disposed improperly, such items can harm soil and groundwater.

In 2001, Alberta was the first province to introduce a voluntary program to recycle computers and fluorescent bulbs. Since that time, about 130 organizations and businesses have signed on as partners, over 2,700 tonnes of computers have been reused or recycled, and more than 470,000 metres of fluorescent bulbs have been recycled.

But because of the growth of electronic waste in the past few years, Environment Minister Lorne Taylor says a more formal program is needed.

Alberta already has successful programs for the collection and recycling of tires, beverage containers and used oil. These programs are based on a fee paid at point of purchase, and are either based on an incentive to consumers (such as with refundable deposit on bottles) or on a fee that goes towards supporting a collection and distribution system to ensure products are being recycled or reused in an environmentally responsible manner.

The consultation and review of similar programs in other jurisdictions will help determine the type of e-waste management program, and how it would be applied.

For further information, contact Val Mellesmoen of Alberta Environment at 780-427-6267