The electronics recycling program in Alberta is overseen by the Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA).
Electronics make up one of the fastest-growing waste streams around the world. As technology continues to advance at a seemingly ever-increasing rate, existing electronic devices are replaced in favour of the next new shiny thing or become outdated and need to be replaced out of necessity. This replacement cycle can pose some problems when it comes to electronics as many of these devices contain potentially harmful materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium, to name just a few. These materials need to be treated with care and either recycled or disposed of properly. ARMA works with municipalities and processors across Alberta to ensure that electronic devices are recycled in a safe and responsible manner.
One of Alberta's electronic recycling program's main objectives is to prevent computer equipment from being shipped to impoverished countries to be illegally dumped and scavenged for precious metals. When these electronics are taken apart without the proper precautions, toxic materials can seep into the environment contaminating the earth, water, and air – putting people's health and well-being at risk. When you bring your electronics to a municipal collection site, you are making sure that they are processed safely and responsibly in Alberta.
After the electronics have been collected, they are picked up from the collection sites (municipal collection sites, businesses, schools, universities, etc.) by registered Electronics Processors. These processors disassemble the electronics safely and separate the collected materials according to the electronics recycling program's requirements.
Many electronics, such as televisions and computers, contain valuable materials that can be processed and reused. Recovered steel, aluminum, and copper can be repurposed as feedstock for new products. Glass from television and computer screens can be melted down, the lead separated out, and reused. Plastic from computer cases, keyboards, and other peripherals are broken down to produce plastic flakes or pellets, which are used to make new products.
The environmental fees that we pay when we buy new electronics help fund the cost of recycling these items. The electronics that eligible for Alberta's Electronics Recycling Program include:
· Computers and servers
· Laptop, notebook, and tablet computers
· Visual Display Devices (Televisions, monitors, and all-in-one computers)
· Printers, copiers, scanners, and fax machines
ARMA started a two-year expanded electronics pilot project on September 1, 2020, significantly increasing the number of eligible electronics to over 500 devices, including countertop appliances, audiovisual devices, power tools, gaming systems, and others. Albertans will not have to pay any extra fees to recycle the additional items that will be collected under this pilot project. During this pilot project, ARMA will be collecting data, compiling research and analysis of the recycling processes, tracking the associated costs, and calculating the anticipated demand/use levels for the different electronic waste goods. The information that ARMA collects from this pilot project will be compiled into a report that will inform the provincial government on the best path forward to update Alberta's current electronics recycling program. Ultimately, ARMA would like to expand the electronics recycling program to include everything with a cord or battery.
Alberta has over 450 registered recycling depots throughout the province, many of which are now accepting the devices listed under the expanded electronics pilot project. Visit www.albertarecycling.ca/recycling-depots to find the nearest recycling depot to your location and the materials that they accept.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette