Earlier this week, Quebec rolled out its new green fee for electronics. Consumers will pay $40 when they purchase a new television, smartphone, laptop or printer. The fee will help cover the cost of recycling that product at the end of its life.
While this might be a change for Quebec, green fees are hardly anything new for many Canadians. Consumers in provinces across the country have been contributing to the end-of-life disposal of their electronics, but not all of us may know exactly how that money pays for the recycling process.
What does the fee pay for?
While each province may handle the specific recycling process a little differently, they generally have the same major steps: by paying the recycling fee at the beginning of your electronic device's life, you can drop it off for free at a designated recycling facility or pick-up point to have it disposed of in the most environmentally friendly way.
The fee you pay covers the cost of collecting, transporting and disposing of the device, as well as associated administrative costs. When you drop off the device, it is sorted then dismantled into its various parts. Machines separate out the different metals, which are then melted down and shipped out to be turned into new products. Plastic and glass are also sold to be turned into new products, when possible. The recycling centre also safely disposes rare elements like lithium, which can be harmful if not disposed of correctly.
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Who has to pay for recycling fees?
Many provinces have individual programs in place for recycling electronics. It is often called an "Environmental Handling Fee" by retailers who, like Best Buy and The Source, enforce it. The items that are covered by the program vary slightly from province to province, based on what devices are recycled by the provincial recycling facilities. Here's a breakdown of what consumers in each province have to pay:
Recycling fees in B.C. range from as little as $0.40 for small peripherals to $45 for a television 46-inches or larger. Items including answering machines and home theatres are also covered under the B.C. program; visit this link for a full list of items that are covered and their associated costs.
Recently, the fees for the disposal of televisions and monitors went up in Alberta. Consumers will now pay $4 for a screen less than 30 inches and $10 for a screen larger than that.
Purchasing a new CPU or server in Alberta will cost an extra $4.40 to cover the disposal (including keyboard, mouse, cables and speakers), $4.80 for printers and printer combos, and $1.20 for laptops, notebooks and tablets.
The Saskatchewan Waste Electronic Equipment Program (SWEEP) controls the fees for the province, which covers computers and computer displays and televisions, with associated fees ranging from $3 for portable computers to $23.25 for display devices larger than 29 inches. It also adds a small fee to the purchase of computer mice and keyboards, telephones and answering machines, audio and video equipment and printing, copying and multi-function devices.
Beginning this past August, Manitoba residents also started paying a recycling fee at purchase of electronics. The program covers televisions for about $9-$23, depending on size, audio/video equipment, home theatres, computers, printers and all-in-one machines, and microwave ovens. Visit the Electronic Products Recycling Association Manitoba website for more details.
As with other provinces, the biggest fee for recycling electronics in Ontario is on display devices — $11 for 29 inches or smaller, and $25 for larger sizes. All other devices will only be a couple of dollars at most, while only a penny is added to recycle cellular devices. You can see the full list of fees here.
In the latest province to get the recycling fee, consumers will now have to pay at least $40 on top of the cost of their product. Telecommunications company Videotron, however, has announced that it will be covering the cost of the fee for its customers.
The fee in both provinces is administered by the Electronic Products Recycling Association, which is probably why the fees are the same in both. Large televisions have an extra $40 EHF, while those under 30inches have a $11.50 fee. You can also recycle printers, audio and video systems, home theaters, non-cellular telephones and vehicle audio/video systems in these provinces, with fees ranging from a couple of bucks to less than a dollar.
Who doesn't have to pay recycling fees on electronics?
Currently, there are no regulations in place to charge consumers the green fee in New Brunswick or Newfoundland. Although, if the recent example of Quebec is any indication, that could change at any time.
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