Electronics Recycling: Good with the Bad


Today marks the beginning of the new BC-wide electronics recycling program, according to the CBC [cbc].

The good side of this is you’re no longer faced with the anguish of choosing between letting your dead $50 DVD player rot away in the closet, or secretly tossing it into a dumpster at night and praying it’s not one of those devices with a secret little container of Cesium-137 which is going to surface in the drinking water and render the entire population sterile in 50 years.

Electronics waste has been an increasing percentage of landfill bulk, both as a result of its physical characteristics:
– doesn’t compress well
– usually made of metal and other heavy materials
– doesn’t biodegrade
. . . and its economic ones:
– increasing popularity of electronic devices in the home
– quick rate of turnover (how often do you replace your cell phone compared to, say, your coffee table?)
– decreasing purchase costs, which make the cost of repairing broken items not feasible (and sometimes not even possible)

However, most regional and municipal governments, while touting the importance of recycling electronic devices, seldom actually provide facilities or easy processes for doing so.

Well, now the Province of BC has followed through.

. . .

Starting today, they’re offering to let you drop off your used, broken, or otherwise unwanted electronics at any of 17 local recycling depots, which the province will cart off to a disposal facility in Trail, BC. At a price.

Also starting today, every new electronic item bought in BC will carry a $10 – $45 environmental surcharge (somewhat akin to the $0.05 environmental fee the grocery store charges you for items in plastic bottles).

It’s not clear whether the fee schedule is based on price, weight, volume, or chemical content, but for less expensive electronic devices, the difference will be significant.

I was brought up to believe there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that if consumers weren’t charged directly for this service, they’d still be paying just as much for it indirectly (a hidden fee in the item cost, or higher BC taxes, or that kind of thing).

And I can’t think of a better way. Charge people on disposal rather than purchase? That would just mean all that waste would be even more likely to wind up in the standard landfills, rather than less likely.

It’s still discouraging, however, that the cost of disposal per item is so high, and must primarily be a result of the average freight costs from anywhere in the province to Trail BC.

Perhaps I could simply Purolator my DVD player there instead, and give them an extra $5 for dispoal costs.

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