Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

E-waste program success story?

In BC we take computers back to be recycled in a program that is authorized by Sony, Dell, HP, Apple, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

All those good names and logos are on the line that our e-waste won't end up in the place pictured here.

This is the place where our federal government sent its e-waste until good work by the Basel Action Network brought images like this home.

The timing couldn't have been better. British Columbia's landmark, earth-changing Industry Product Stewardship legislation was shining the spotlight on major brand-owners, calling them to the table, saying: "This is your problem. Solve it."

The brand-owners got the message. Seeing the handwriting on the wall -- that they were going to have to take back e-waste and recycle it -- they developed a sheet of Vendor Qualifications setting out for the recycling companies wanting to do business with them what could, and couldn't, happen to all those products bearing their brands. What couldn't happen was prison labour or export to non-OECD/EU countries (such as China).

The Electronic Stewardship Association of BC is the group of brand-owners that oversees what happens to ewaste in our province. They are asking their Advisory Committee (on which Zero Waste Vancouver has a seat) what should be their priorities for the coming year when they sit down in the fall to develop an Annual Plan for 2011.

What should I tell them on your behalf?

For myself, I'm going to ask them what they are doing to avoid the public relations disaster being suffered this week by the Ontario government, which is allowing e-waste to end up in landfills.

1 comment:

Gibsons Recycling said...

Helen. Again excellent work. My question you could ask would be "why are the steward operators not supporting Resource Recovery Facilities more, as a viable alternative to incineration and landfilling, especially in rural areas"?

Resource Recovery Drop Off Facilities is one of the only ways we know of where reuse and repair can take place. It is nice retailers will take some stuff back but retail stores at best have very limited shipping and receiving space. Putting some of the hazardous recyclables like fluorescent tubes in these crammed spaces can lead to possible harm to people if these things break.

Resource Recovery Facilities, kind of like a "one stop drop" for all recyclable and reusable items is the cornerstone to any communities Zero Waste program. Not giant boon-doggle white elephant projects but smaller conveniently located facilities that can keep recyclables separated, fetching a much higher value then commingling.

Often, we forget, that much of North America's recyclables end up at these same places, to pick through the contaminants created through mixing all recyclables together. That's like "unscrambling a scrambled egg" one North American paper mill manager said.

As Extended Produce Responsibility becomes more and more popular, we need several drop off options that makes it easy for people to recycle. As we raise the bar, it must be noted that there are no cheap quick fixes. We all have to participate, manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

And being informed is very important. There is no "renewable energy nor waste to energy in nature". Burning waste is just that. Green washing terms such as these further create confusion. The new one "biomass energy" through burning to generate power is just nuts. Yet BC Hydro is calling for more of this silliness, as well as the provincial and federal governments.

More money is spent on consultants and advertising firms to sell this illusion. Not on actually supporting and encouraging small entrepreneurs to create green jobs. Resource Recovery and Recycling generates way more jobs then incineration and landfilling. But some in our country want us to believe that just making things magically disappear is warrants the brand "Zero Waste". It's all an illusion.

We need to roll up our sleeves, watch how much we consume, maybe reduce what we buy and throw away and force the manufacturers to make better packaging that can maybe be reused, like a milk bottle. We hold the power through our votes at election time and when we purchase something. We also can have a direct influence on policy by being informed. It also makes it harder for those who we elect to do better to get away with this nonsense.

"ACCOUNTABILITY" is the new idea that needs to come back to Canadian politics. Those who run for office, are like little kids , all excited and giddy at how "green "they are as candidates. But once elected, haven't a clue. The old ways and old players just do not work anymore. Time to put our planet ahead of those who have only their self interest and interest of special interest groups at heart. Be informed.

Buddy Boyd
Gibsons BC