SLRD gears up for e-waste day 

Educational program to divert toxic computers, components, cell phones, from landfills

According to best estimates, more than 60 per cent of Canadian households have computers. There are more than 14 million cellular phones.

At some point all of these computers and cell phones are going to become obsolete and wind up in a landfill.

The Recycling Council of British Columbia is just one of the agencies that is concerned with the nation’s growing e-waste problem. More than 36,000 tonnes of electronic products – televisions, computers, printers, cell phones, etc. – were discarded by Canadians in 1999. By 2005 that figure is expected to grow to 71,000 tonnes annually, or more than two kilograms per person each year.

The main issue isn’t the landfill space, although that is a concern for most communities. The issue is pollution and the fact that many e-waste items fall into the same category as toxic waste.

According to Wendy Horan, the waste reduction co-ordinator for the SLRD and president of AWARE, most people don’t realize what they’re throwing out.

"The problem with this stuff, it’s not just the sheer volume of it, although it is a growing wave of waste," said Horan. "E-waste contains a whole host of crazy toxins. There’s huge amounts of lead – the average computer monitor contains two kilograms of lead – and then we get down into mercury and bromine and cadmium and fluorine and all kinds of stuff that shouldn’t be going into the landfill… because of the leachate threat."

To educate the public and give people a chance to safely throw out or recycle their electronic waste, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is helping to sponsor an Electronic Waste Collection event in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton on Sunday, April 25.

The first e-waste day is for residents not businesses – the project already has a limited capacity and a $10,000 price tag. People who bring their e-waste will receive an information booklet and possibly a seedling to plant to off-set the carbon emissions created by shipping the waste to the processor.

A list of items that will be accepted is being put together by the company in Calgary that will handle the recycling and safe disposal of e-waste, and will be available in the weeks leading up to the event. According to Horan it is one of the only companies in Western Canada that will accept e-waste at this time.

On a global scale, the top 15 computer companies are working together on an initiative that would charge computer users a fee up front to cover the cost of recycling down the road. While that initiative is close to completion, it doesn’t account for the billions of electronic items already in circulation.

The e-waste collection event is sponsored by Carney’s Waste Systems, the RMOW and AWARE, and has the support of the Village of Pemberton.

Because the collection will take place during the annual free dump day, Horan says they will need a lot of help keeping the event organized. Anyone who wishes to volunteer, or can donate money or vehicles to the event should call Wendy Horan at 1-604-894-6371, ext. 236 or zerowaste@slrd.bc.ca.

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