All the new electronic gadgets bought for over the holidays might be good for a struggling economy, but they’re not so good for the environment if the toys and devices that have been replaced are just illegally chucked into the garbage.

More than 140,000 tonnes of "e-waste" was legally disposed of in Canada in 2008, the latest year for which there are statistics.

Electronic recyclers like Regional Recycling in B.C.’s Lower Mainland have become a big part of the picture.

"Pretty much we're accepting anything with a cord or a plug," said general manager Jason Dault.

Dault said much of the material comes into the company’s five depots early in the new year.

"When everybody's already opened up all their packages and stuff like that, they start rolling in, and in the spring when people start cleaning out their garages, that's when the bulk of the electronics come," said Dault.

Household disposal banned

Throwing items like electronics, batteries and fluorescent light bulbs into household garbage is banned in B.C. Most devices contain chemicals like lead and mercury that can leach into the ground.

The list of recyclable gadgets is steadily growing. Among them now are:

  • TVs.
  • Computers.
  • Stereos.
  • VCRs.
  • Cameras.
  • Phones.
  • Batteries.
  • Other personal electronics

Check with attendants

But not everything can be successfully broken down and recycled yet and it’s best to check with depot attendants about what’s allowable.

Recycling most of items is free for the consumer because a recycling levy charge added to the price of most electronics.

Dault says public attitudes have demonstrably changed with the availability of recycling centres like those offered by his company in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Richmond, Vancouver and Whistler.

"We recycle anywhere from 120 to 170 skids of electronic equipment a month" he said. "Which is pretty nice, because before 2008, these items weren't even being recycled. Most of this stuff was going to landfills and stuff throughout B.C."

With files from the CBC's Stephanie Mercier