TV, computer recycling on the increase

Shoppers are recycling record amounts of electronics in Calgary as they realize picking up a new flat screen TV or a faster computer comes with an extra "green" fee.

Shoppers are recycling record amounts of electronics in Alberta as they realize picking up a new flat screen TV or a faster computer comes with an extra "green" fee.

In 2001, Calgary launched a program to recycle old computers and televisions.Last year 1.4 million kilograms in old electronics were recycled, up from 515,000 kg in 2005.

"It's just huge growth over the last few years," said Mike Saley, manager of waste and recycling services.

Edmonton has also seen a jump, with 1.1 million kilograms of TV and computer parts recycled last year, compared with 896,000 kg in 2005.

That growth is thanks in part to funding from an environmental levy imposed by the province in 2004. Fees range from $15 to $45 for new televisions and $5 to $12 on new computer equipment.

While buyers of new products don't get a refund from recycling their old equipment, many learn about the program when they are at the till, paying for their new equipment. Dropping off old computers and TVs for recycling is free.

Fee goes to recycling programs

Kristina Dembinski, with Alberta Recycling, said all that money goes directly into recycling programs.

"These environmental fees are used for the collection, transportation and recycling of unused and unwanted electronics. It's also used for research into new recycling technologies, and public information and awareness-building programs as well."

To keep up with public demand for the program, the city has just added a ninth site for electronics recycling.

Old equipment contains hazards

According to Environment Canada, more than 140,000 tonnes of computer equipment, phones, televisions, stereos and small home appliances accumulate in Canadian landfills each year.

The average cathode-ray tube (CRT) computer monitor contains 1.8 kilograms of lead as well as other heavy metals including mercury and cadmium.

Lead affects the human central nervous system and kidneys, while mercury can lead to brain damage, birth defects, kidney failure, respiratory harm and liver damage. It has also been linked to autism in children.

Electronic equipment also contains chemicals such as hexavalent chromium, brominated flame-retardants and polyvinyl chlorides, which can pollute groundwater.

But these products also contain valuable material such as aluminum, ferrous metals and copper that could be recycled.