Expanding access to the third R

Starting next spring, people in Saskatchewan will be able to bring more electronic devices to SARCAN for recycling. Michael Joel-Hansen/Times-Herald.

More electronics to be accepted for recycling

Saskatchewan residents will be able to recycle more of their old electronics come spring.

In a media release sent out Wednesday, the government announced that SARCAN recycling centres will be accepting electronics such as scanners, floor standing printers, gaming consoles and e-book readers.

“These changes were developed in response to consultations and our ongoing commitment to protect the environment,” said Minister of the Environment Dustin Duncan.

Brienne Bennett, environmental assessment administrator with the Ministry of the Environment, said the province’s electronics recycling program, which dates back to 2007, plays an important role in making sure materials are disposed of properly. The program has grown since it was introduced, expanding in 2010-11.

“This is the third expansion,” Bennett said.

With the growth of the program and its ability to take more items, Saskatchewan has caught up with both Manitoba and British Columbia. The provincial government worked with a number of groups, both from industry and environmental sectors, including the Electronics Products Recycling Association Saskatchewan. The group is an industry-led not-for-profit that works to make sure old electronic devices are disposed of properly and kept out of landfills.

“They are the ones who manage the program and manage the contractors within the program, so they themselves would not recycle them, they would be the middle-man that arranges these products to get to the appropriate recyclers,” Bennett said.

What can happen to a product when it is recycled depends on a number of factors. Some can be broken down and reused, while others may contain chemicals, like mercury or lead, that would then need to be disposed of separately. According to Bennett, most the work that needed to be done to move forward on this front involved consultations.

“Not a lot needed to be done besides stakeholder engagement to ensure these were the products we should be adding,” she said.

Bennett explained that in regards to recycling old electronics, the process can be complicated by the fact that the products are constantly changing and evolving.

“Sometimes new products are just developed, and in the meantime, some of the additional pieces you can bring in didn’t exist when the original regulations were written,” she said.

The ministry was not able to provide numbers on how much material would be diverted from the province’s landfills as a result of the expanded recycling options. Bennett said this is in part because with the evolution of devices, the weights tend to vary, which makes it hard to determine how many devices are being recycled.

“They changes quite a bit … things like TVs used to weigh quite a bit more than they do now, so it’s hard to estimate using weight,” she said.

In terms of possibly expanding the province’s electronic recycling program further, Bennett said the prospect of doing so is something that is on the table.

“It is something that we are definitely considering, perhaps having an expansion in the future to include additional products, but we’re not sure at this time,” she said.