Written by Caitlin, the newest edition to the Embark blogging team!
Let’s be honest: as students, we are pretty dependent on our technology. We need it to keep our academic and social lives afloat. Yet our tech can become outdated in as little as six months, as it is often designed not to last. For instance, an iPod battery loses half its capacity after only 13 months! This struggle is largely understood as a financial problem, but there’s another issue that’s rarely mentioned: the massive amounts of electronic waste we produce.
Currently, the world produces about 20-50 million metric tons of e-waste, and UNEP projects a 500% increase in the coming decade! Containing lead, cadium, and mercury, e-waste is often shipped to developing countries in order to save on disposal costs. There, workers (including children!), mine the discarded electronics for parts that are valuable enough to keep and sell. Not having the infrastructure or institutions to properly do this, e-waste is either dumped or burned, releasing toxic chemicals harmful to both humans and environmental health.
There is a silver lining amidst the bad news: Canadians do seem to have a basic awareness regarding their electronic footprint, which is perhaps why 40% of Canadians hold onto their tech. I personally have two old computers that I no longer use but feel too guilty to throw out!But after doing some research, I have determined that you CAN recycle your e-waste. Although you can’t dispose of it like you would other recyclables, there are sustainable and local programs that make it as easy as possible for you to dispose of your e-waste; below is a master list that covers any possible technology you may have:
1) Free Geek Vancouver: Feeling guilty about recycling your still perfectly usable tech? Free Geek’s number one priority to reuse before recycling! But, if your gadgets are on their last legs, then not to worry! They also recycle pretty much any tech that you can think of, as locally as possible! Check them out!
2) Electronic Products Recycling Association: Run by a collective of concerned producers, this program is managed by ENCORP specific, who are best known for their Return-It Bottle depots. Turns out, select ENCORP locations take most electronics (except for cell phones), which they then hand off to one of three BC/Alberta based recycling agencies; check out the link to find a local drop-off location!
3) Recycle-My-Cell: This group collects and sends cell phones to responsible recyclers; most, if not all of these recyclers are located within Canada. Click on the link below to find your closest drop-off location!
4) SFU Facilities Services: Live on campus? SFU facilities services also collects e-waste (including batteries) for recycling! You can either drop them off at one of their Central Stores, or submit a custodial request for pick-up.
The number one issue with e-waste isn’t that there aren’t any resources out there; it’s that the general public doesn’t know that it’s an issue! So I’m challenging you: don’t keep this information to yourself. The most powerful thing you can do about e-waste is to share your knowledge! Let’s make sure that no tech gets left behind!