Industry suggests $25 consumer charge for recycling electronics

Electronic manufacturers in Canada want to slap a $25 disposal fee on their products.

The e-waste charge would be tacked on to the price of computers and televisions to fund safe disposal programs in cities. The fee would be lower for smaller items such as pagers, hand-held devices and printers.

The industry has formed Electronics Product Stewardship Canada to deal with the issue. It includes all the big producers of electronics such as Sony and Hewlett-Packard.

David Betts, who heads the stewardship, says they want to be "ahead of the game" because the provinces are preparing legislation to deal with this issue.

Betts says his industry is concerned about differing provincial requirements.

Betts says the industry wants bins at waste depots where the public can dump old electronics. The waste would be sorted and disposed of properly or recycled.

Much of Canada's e-waste is ending up in developing countries such as China, Pakistan and India. CBC's consumer program Marketplace tracked some of that waste to China.

In some parts of China, village women and children toil day and night to recover copper and gold. Much of the high-tech debris ends up in ditches or waterways. Water is no longer drinkable.

Calgary recycler Trent Wolodko says much of the waste exported to other countries is getting in "through the back door," through under-the-table payments.

Basel Action Network, a U.S. environmental group, says Canadian waste handlers are undermining an international treaty signed 13 years ago. The Basel Convention sought to stop rich countries from dumping their high-tech hazardous waste into poorer countries.

The federal government is above board on this it doesn't consider computers hazardous waste unless it's broken into parts.

The European Union and Japan have adopted "Extended Producer Recycling" programs where electronic goods are required to be made of a certain amount of recyclable material. The manufacturers are also made responsible for safe disposal.