Imagine: over a 20-year period, a North American household will dispose of an average of 68 electronic products! More specifically, this amounts to 10 computers, 20 cellphones, 7 televisions and a variety of VCRs, CD and DVD players, telephone answering machines, printers… not to mention the innumerable batteries that some of these machines will have devoured.
A toxic electronic cocktail
No one should be left indifferent by this estimate. Why? Because most of these products end up in landfill sites, despite the hazardous character of the many heavy metals and fire retardant agents they contain. Among the substances that carry known risks for human health and the environment are lead, cadmium, beryllium and mercury, in addition to the bromine-containing fire retardant substances contained in these products’ plastic components.
A consumption explosion
This reality is all the more worrisome since the number of electronic devices is constantly increasing, among other things because their purchase prices continue to decline. For example, some 130 million computers are sold worldwide every year. In Quebec alone, more than 769,000 televisions were sold in 2008, and nearly 1.5 million corded and cordless telephones.
Increasingly frequent replacement
At the same time as these products are proliferating, the fact that they are evolving constantly and quickly is shrinking their lifespan, which now averages 3½ years (2 years for cellphones!). The unfortunate result: in Quebec in 2010, fully 1l,000 tonnes of electronic products — from the residential sector alone — ended up in dumps.
Tens of millions of batteries in the trash
The situation isn’t much more encouraging when it comes to batteries. In 2007, nearly 162 million batteries destined for the general public were sold in Quebec, a 52% increase over 2004. Even though batteries have corrosive properties and also contain the heavy metals mercury, lead and cadmium, only 6% of them were recycled in 2008.
The (green) light at the end of the tunnel
To raise consumers’ awareness and encourage them to adopt more environmentally friendly disposal habits, RECYC-QUÉBEC has launched two programs for the recovery and recycling of these very harmful waste items:
Program for the recovery and recycling of electronics products
- Overall recovery objective of 40% (25% for cellphones and telephones)
- Dropoff points: ecocentres in Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Lévis and Rimouski as well as 70 Bureau en Gros stores.
- More information from the Electronic Products Recycling Association (in Quebec, the Association du recyclage des produits électroniques, ARPE-Québec (www.recyclermeselectroniques.ca/eng), which can provide a list of dropoff points for each regional county municipality (MRC).
Battery recovery and recycling program
- Recovery objective of 20% for non-rechargeable batteries and 25% for rechargeable batteries.
- 900 dropoff points: ecocentres throughout Quebec, as well as Rona, Canadian Tire, La Source, Bureau en Gros, Batteries Expert, Future Shop, Sears and Centre du Rasoir stores.
- More information from the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation of Canada (www.call2recycle.ca).