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E-waste diverted, but where exactly?

Ontario’s high-profile electronic waste disposal program is failing to recycle millions of computers and televisions it promised to keep out of landfills.

Ontario’s high-profile electronic waste disposal program is failing to recycle millions of computers and televisions it promised to keep out of landfills.

In its first year, the Ontario Electronic Stewardship — a private agency created by provincial regulation — gathered only one-third of the 42,000 tonnes of toxin-laced equipment it was originally supposed to collect, according to reports obtained by the Toronto Star.

Environment Minister John Gerretsen wants to know why.

“I have been disappointed that (OES) haven’t been able to meet the targets,” Gerretsen said in an interview. “I don’t know what has gone wrong.”

An OES spokesperson blamed the problem on growing pains of a new program.

Here’s how it is supposed to work: Companies or non-profits are designated as “collectors” to pick up used electronics homeowners toss out by the millions. OES pays collectors up to $235 per tonne out of “eco-fees” contained in the cost of each new electronic gadget sold.

The OES then divides the haul from the collectors among eight approved recyclers, which extract usable components and safely dispose of toxic materials, like mercury or beryllium.

The problem, insiders say, is many other collectors have opted out of the provincial program and are selling the material — possibly overseas — for up to five times the OES amount.

“Of course they can make more money,” said Cindy Coutts, president of Sims Recycling Solutions, the first recycler approved by the OES program.

“They don’t do anything properly, they cut off some copper wires, take out some circuit boards,” she notes. Then they label it as something other than e-waste to elude Canadian authorities and ship it overseas, she said.

Canada bans the export of e-waste to developing countries, but companies are allowed to ship e-waste to brokers in the U.S., which has no rules against transporting materials offshore.

 
 
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