“In 2004, Alberta set up Canada’s first end-of-life Electronics Recycling Program,” says Ed Gugenheimer, Chief Executive Office of ARMA. “It was an essential move that has helped to close the proverbial circuit on responsible development and consumption.”
The program was initially set up to prevent end-of-life electronics from being exported to developing countries where environmental and safety abuses may occur. This spring the initiative reached a significant milestone with 10 million electronic units diverted away from landfills over the last decade and a half.
“Alberta is fortunate to have over 350 registered electronics collection sites throughout the province,” says Gugenheimer. “Our data shows that 96% of the population live no further than a 20-minute drive to a location in their municipality or Indigenous community so it’s easy to do your part.”
The items attract small environmental fees ranging from $1.20 to $10.00 depending upon the item and size. There are also a few ‘peripheral’ items such as keyboards, mice, cables, speakers and docking stations that are added to the recycling stream at no extra charge.
“Within the province we have six approved recyclers who pick up the electronics from collection sites and businesses,” says Gugenheimer. “These items are then disassembled in a safe, secure and environmentally sound manner.”
The glass, metals and plastic generated from this process are sold throughout Canada, the U.S. and into some overseas markets for manufacturing into new products. Electronic components containing substances of concern such as mercury and lead are handled carefully during the process to protect both the environment and the health and safety of the recyclers.
Keen to build on the momentum of this highly successful program, ARMA recently launched a two-year expanded electronics pilot project on September 1, 2020 where it is expected to see an additional 24,600 tonnes of electronics recycled through the program.
In terms of economic impact, an expanded electronics program has the potential to inject $30 million gross value add (GVA) annually into Alberta’s economy and create 360 additional full-time jobs in the recycling sector. With the data that ARMA will gather from this project, it will be able to provide the government and others with critical information that will help determine the best course of action to modernize the electronics recycling program for the long-term.
Included in the pilot project is audio visual equipment, telecom, cell phone and wireless devices, electronic gaming equipment, small home appliances, portable power tools, toys, musical instruments and solar panels. There is no charge for Albertans to recycle these items for the duration of the pilot.
“With technology changing so quickly and our pace of consumption accelerating, our responsibility to the environment and our ability to turn waste into feedstock to be turned back into marketable products is a win-win for everyone,” says Gugenheimer.
To learn more about the electronics pilot project, please visit ARMAepilot.com