Electronics recycling fee begins in Alberta

Albertans who buy TVs and computers will have to pay more when the province begins collecting an electronics recycling fee.

Albertans who buy televisions and computers will have to pay more when the province begins collecting an electronics recycling fee starting Tuesday.

The new levy will add up to $45 to the cost of new televisions and up to $12 for computer components.

The fees will cover the costs of collection, transportation, recycling, public awareness programs and electronics-related research. The program is the first of its kind in Canada.

Last year, Albertans threw out about 190,000 televisions and 90,000 computers. That's a problem because the average computer monitor contains 1.8 milligrams of lead and 0.6 milligrams of 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. Yet because of a shortage of electronic waste recycling facilities in Canada, very little is recovered.

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. That's equivalent to the weight of about 28,000 adult African elephants or enough uncrushed electronic waste to fill up the Toronto SkyDome every 15 years. 

In Alberta, consumers can bring their obsolete equipment to one of more than 75 collection sites across the province.

Three provincially approved electronics recyclers will be paid $700 per tonne to process these materials.

Alberta says recycling fees may be applied in the future to cellphones, stereos, VCRs, DVD players, fax machines and electronic games.