As the problems posed by waste electronics has grown, governments around the world have enacted various rules and regulations around how they are handled. These regulations often take the form of a stewardship scheme where the manufacturers are responsible for setting up and paying for the collection, transportation and recycling of e-waste.
In Canada, stewardship programs are implemented at the provincial level and overseen by the respective Ministry of the Environment. This paper provides an overview of what type of material is governed by e-waste legislation, the relevant stakeholders and what is happening in each province with regards to electronics recycling stewardship.
Types of Products Covered
The products covered under the various provincial stewardship programs have expanded over the years in phases. All programs started with phase 1, which included standard office and home electronics like computers, printers, monitors and TVs. Phase 2 included home audio and telecommunications equipment such as stereos and phones.
Provinces have expanded their programs at different rates. In BC, phase 5 was implemented in 2015 and now almost every item with a battery or plug is covered under a provincial recycling program. All other provinces have expanded to phase 2 with most considering phase 3 and 4 expansion in the next few years. Only Alberta has never expanded past phase 1, although adjustments are expected soon.
Electronics Products Stewardship Canada (EPSC)
Founded in 2003 to develop and promote sustainable recycling solutions for Canada’s end-of-life electronics, EPSC is an industry-led nonprofit organization whose membership is comprised of the 30 leading electronics manufacturers.
The mandate of EPSC is to represent the interests of manufacturers in shaping the policy environment as well as the development of electronics recycling solutions. To date EPSC, through EPRA (see below), has worked to establish electronic recycling stewardship programs in British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, PEI, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
Electronics Products Recycling Association (EPRA)
EPRA is a not-for-profit industry-led organization that oversees and manages the recycling of end-of-life electronics in eight of Canada’s ten provinces, comprising of over 90% of Canada’s population. It is focused on servicing the end-of-life electronics generated primarily by the consumer sector.
In order to ensure items that enter any of the EPRA programs are handled in a responsible and sustainable manner, EPRA will only work with recyclers that have been approved through their Recycler Qualification Office (RQO) to the Electronics Recycling Standard (ERS). The ERS is specific to EPRA and comprises elements of the more widely recognized R2 standard plus some additional components unique to the Canadian marketplace.
Program funding is generated through the collection of Environmental Handling Fees (EHF) at the point of sale of obligated electronic products. These fees are managed at the provincial program level, and distributed to service providers to subsidize the cost of collecting, transporting and recycling.
EPRA-run Provincial Programs
British Columbia has the widest range of obligated products of any Canadian province. Launched in August of 2007, the EPRA BC Program plan has expanded through many phases and currently has more than 1,700 registered program stewards, comprised of manufacturers and retailers.
The program is managed by Encorp Pacific, the provincial bottle depot network, and operated under the brand Return-It™ Electronics. Electronics collected by Encorp are sent to EPRA select approved recyclers for primary processing. Approved processors may also collect material from select businesses and organizations and claim the weight to EPRA. The provincial program generated 4.6 kg per capita in 2015.
One of the newer provincial stewardship programs, EPRA Manitoba was established in 2012. The EPRA MB Program Plan is operated in accordance with the province’s Electrical and Electronic Equipment Stewardship Regulation program. To date, more than 500 manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders have registered as program stewards.
The provincial collection network is made up of public and private depots ranging from municipal landfill sites to private retailers. Material is consolidated by the program operators and sent to select EPRA-approved recyclers for primary processing. There are no opportunities for approved processors to collect material outside of the allocation stream or return to retail streams. The provincial program generated 2.7 kg per capita in 2015.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Operating in accordance with the Province’s Waste Management Regulation, the EPRA Newfoundland and Labrador Program is currently comprised of more than 270 program stewards that includes manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders. The program has been operating since 2013.
Like Manitoba, the provincial collection network is made up of public and private depots ranging from municipal landfill sites to private retailers. Material is consolidated by the program and sent to select EPRA-approved recyclers for primary processing. There are no opportunities for approved processors to collect material outside of the allocation stream or return to retail streams. The provincial program generated 2.0 kg per capita in 2015.
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia is home is to the third provincial electronics recycling program, launched in 2008. The EPRA Nova Scotia Program Plan operates in accordance with the province’s Solid Waste-Resource Management Regulation. There are currently more than 710 program stewards, comprised of manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders.
The province of Prince Edward Island, with a population of just 140,000, operate their program jointly under the EPRA Nova Scotia umbrella rather than operate on their own. Material is consolidated by the program and sent to select EPRA-approved recyclers for primary processing. There are no opportunities for approved processors to collect material outside of the allocation stream or return to retail streams. The joint provincial programs generated 4.2 kg per capita in 2015.
In accordance with the province’s Waste Diversion Act, EPRA oversees Ontario Electronics Stewardship (OES), an industry led not-for-profit organization that operates the provincial recycling program for end-of-life electronics. OES, and EPRA by extension, are ultimately accountable to Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO), an oversight body for all provincial recycling programs appointed by the Ministry of the Environment. WDO in turn reports to the Ministry.
Stewardship in Ontario has recently been upended by the governments passing of sweeping legislation, bill C151, known as the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act. Passed in June 2016, it will have profound effects across waste management and recycling sectors, the exact details of which are yet to be established.
Under the existing regime, OES manages their own collection network alongside an incentivized network managed by the community of EPRA-approved electronics recyclers. Generators of electronics consist of everyone from municipal landfill and transfer stations to retailers to scrap metal collectors and processors. Electronics recyclers are able to collect from businesses and institutions and claim against the OES. The provincial program generated 4.8 kg per capita in 2015.
EPRA-Québec (Association pour le recyclage des produits electroniques – ARPE QC) was established in May 2012 following an agreement with RECYC-QUÉBEC, the provincial oversight body responsible for all recycling programs in Quebec, much like Ontario’s Waste Diversion Ontario. The program is unique in Canada in that the targets have financial penalties attached to them if not met. It also officially counts IT reuse towards its performance numbers.
EPRA-Québec manages their own collection network consisting of municipal landfill and transfer stations and other community groups. As well as through return to retail, approved processors may also collect material from select businesses and organizations and claim the weight to EPRA. The provincial program generated 2.5 kg per capita in 2015.
Since launching in 2007, more than 700 manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders have registered as stewards of the EPRA Saskatchewan Program plan. The program is recognized by the province, and operates in accordance with Saskatchewan’s Waste Electronic Equipment Regulations.
Electronics collection is done exclusively through the Sarcan network. Sarcan is a not-for-profit organization operating across Saskatchewan that helps mentally challenged adults develop skills and find employment. They collect beverage containers in addition to electronics. The provincial program generated 2.4kg per capita in 2015.
Other Provinces and Territories
Established in October 2004, Alberta is home to Canada’s first provincial electronics recycling program. Alberta is also unique in that it is the only active provincial program not connected to EPRA. The Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA) oversees all recycling stewardship programs in the province and reports directly to the Ministry of the Environment. It is also unique in Canada in that it is the only provincial program that doesn’t directly collect any material. All recyclers have direct relationships with generators, from municipalities to businesses and claim the volume collected against the ARMS program. There are over 360 municipal drop-off sites in the province that will accept end of life electronics for recycling at no charge. The provincial program generates 850,000 assets annually for recycling.
On February 1, 2016, the Electronics Recycling Regulations came into effect under the provincial government’s Waste Reduction and Recovery Act launching Canada’s first territorial electronics recycling program. The new regulations authorize a surcharge to be collected at the point of sale for eligible electronic products in order to fund the recycling program. The program is not yet active.
The territory’s Designated Material Regulation was recently expanded to authorize the collection of a surcharge at the point of sale on electronic products. In order to ensure that sufficient engagement with affected stakeholders is provided, the expanded program will not come into effect until August 1, 2017.