E-waste recycling urged for New Brunswick

New Brunswick is the only Maritime province that does not have a program in place to deal with electronic waste and some say it's time for that to change.
A renewable energy advisor says it's time New Brunswick caught up to the other Maritime provinces when it comes to recycling electronic waste. 1:45

New Brunswick is the only Maritime province that does not have a program in place to deal with electronic waste and an environmental organization says it's time for that to change.

When an old television, computer or any other electronic device reaches the end of its usefulness it is usually put to the curb and taken to the landfill.

Kevin Matthews, the renewable energy advisor for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said it is a problem the provincial government needs to start dealing with.

"I think the province has to step up and enact some e-waste legislation," Matthews told CBC News.

"Nova Scotia's already doing it, and their e-waste is going off to a recycler in Quebec."

Nova Scotia adopted electronic waste regulations in 2008 and Prince Edward Island adopted similar regulations in 2010. 

In both provinces, the Atlantic Canada Electronics Stewardship collects a fee on the sale of every electronic appliance. 

Fees range from a few cents to $40. That money is then used to cover the cost of recycling.

Emily Jewers said she tries to recycle her old electronics, herself.

"I just [broke] my MacBook and I'm going to sell it for parts," Jewers told CBC News,

"That's how I recycle electronics. I sell them for parts instead of just throwing them out. I think that's a better option."

A Department of the Environment spokesperson said the provincial government is not considering e-waste legislation at this time.

The closest the province comes to e-waste recycling is a program in Moncton, where the Westmorland-Albert Solid Waste Corporation accepts electronic waste and ships it to Toronto for recycling there.

Other places in the province have private electronics recycling services which remove some components from electronics for reuse. 

For instance, Edmundston has a non-profit e-waste recycling program, Resnet Recylage.

According to their website they accept old electronics and remove reuseable components which, "reduces the amount of material that is sent to landfills."

Electronics waste a growing problem

Computers, televisions and many other electronics contain a plethora of toxic substances.

The gadgets Canadians toss out each year are estimated to put 4,750 tonnes of lead, 4.5 tonnes of cadmium and 1.1 tonnes of mercury into landfills, all of which are at risk of leaching into ground water.

These toxic substances are linked to health issues such as kidney damage and neurological impairment.

While they contain toxic substances, the old computers, cellphones and television sets Canadians send to landfills each year are also full of useful ferrous metals, as well as things like aluminum, copper, gold and silver that can be separated and reclaimed.

In Canada, the volume of electronic waste is staggering.

Canadians toss out more than 140,000 tonnes of computer equipment, phones, televisions, stereos, and small home appliances every year.

Environment Canada puts the annual volume of electronic waste into clearer perspective by pointing out that it's equal to, "the weight of 28,000 adult African elephants, or enough uncrushed electronic waste to fill up the Toronto Rogers Centre every 15 years."