Piles of wires, motherboards and other electronic parts fill boxes at a recycling drop-off centre. (Advocate news services.)

Alberta needs an expanded electronics recycling program, says Red Deer waste manager

New Alberta environment minister wants to keep toxins out of landfill

Red Deer’s waste collection manager hopes Alberta’s new environment minister expands the province’s electronics recycling program to keep toxins out of landfills.

Janet Whitesell said when the program was started more than 15 years ago, smartphones and computer game consoles were not included. Neither were microwaves, audio visual equipment and stereos.

City workers are still accepting most of these old or broken electronics at the landfill, because it’s hard to explain to people why it’s OK to drop off some things with a plug-in and cord, such as computers, printers and fax machines, but not many others, added Whitesell.

The City of Red Deer pays various processors to haul away and recycle this electronic waste, even though the provincial recycling program only provides compensation for the items included in its list. This means payment for processing the rest of the items comes out of city revenues, said Whitesell.

She’s heartened that new Environment Minister Jason Nixon has stated he will look at expanding the electronics recycling program to help keep mercury, lead and other toxins out of landfills.

It’s encouraging that Nixon is keen to review a file that contains documented public feedback on the matter, she added, even though the UCP government has only been in power for a few weeks.

Nixon, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, told a Calgary newspaper he is committed to protecting the environment through recycling and looks forward to working with stakeholders to consider new and innovative methods.

Whitesell hopes one thing he is considering is shifting some of the financial burden for recycling in Alberta from municipalities to commercial producers of the material that eventually needs to be recycled.

Alberta is one of the only provinces in Canada not to have implemented a policy of extended producer responsibility. The policy requires companies to help manage or pay for the handling and disposal of the tons of packaging they generate.

Since companies already have to pay for such costs in other parts of the country, they have this cost built into the price tags of the products they sell — even those sold in Alberta, she said.

Whitesell said this essentially means that Albertans are paying for recycling pick up twice — once at the cashier’s till and again on their municipal utility bills.


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