There are a few times each year when we give serious consideration to change – at a personal, local and global level. Spring is a time when we think about cleaning, getting organized and decluttering our homes. Birthdays are often a time of personal contemplation.
New Year’s Eve is a time we reflect on goals from the previous year and start making new ones for the coming year, when we think about our health and wellness, our fitness and our finances. But for Canadians, there’s no more profound season of change than spring.
It’s when we think about our changing environment outside and inside our homes and look to the natural world around us. Because of our climate and because we’ve all made it through another brutal winter, we’re ready to embrace the rebirth that comes with the arrival of spring. We start making our lists of things to do around the house – things that need repair, things that need replacing, chores we need to do.
Is this the year I finally get a rain barrel? Am I ready to try backyard composting? So begins our annual spring-cleaning ritual.
We put away our winter gear and haul out our spring gardening tools, bikes, boards and racquets and think about ways to beautify and to free up space. We also consider our environmental footprint – from the cleaning products we use to the way we dispose of our unwanted things.
The great news is that we can unclutter our homes while actually making a tangible difference for the environment. We all have old electronics in our homes, whether they’re broken, obsolete or just something we no longer use. The most recent stats show 80% of Canadians have unused electronics at home – whether it’s the huge old TV shoved away in the garage, the obsolete desktop computer sitting in a corner of the basement or the drawer full of old cell phones. All of our old electronics are filled with resources that can be recovered and reused. When we’re all thinking about climate change and the environment around us, it’s important to start thinking that just about anything with a plug will soon be recyclable.
When it comes to recycling our old electronics, the environmental benefits are huge. For instance, nearly 80% of the materials in a typical cell phone are recyclable, according to the GSM Association (a trade organization representing over 800 mobile operators worldwide). The resources inside our electronics that can be recycled include everything from glass and plastic to gold, silver, copper and palladium. Recovering these resources from our old electronics lessens our dependence on mining for new resources while lessening the environmental impact. According to United Nations University, recovering 10 kilograms of aluminum from recycling uses 90% less energy than required for primary production. Science Educator Alan Nursall, CEO of Edmonton’s Telus World of Science and television personality from Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet says “It’s time to stop thinking about electronics as waste and start thinking of them as valuable resources. Resources that can be returned to usefulness in the manufacturing process.”
Gathering up the old electronics in our homes for recycling is also a great opportunity to reinforce the message of conservation with our kids. They already have an intuitive understanding of recycling because they’ve grown up with it – it’s a part of their daily lives. Recycling old electronics is just one more chance to put that understanding into practice. And discussing the impact of our old tech with them is a great way to help them understand that the new technology they want replaces old technology that needs to be handled responsibly. Involving them in gathering up the old electronics in your home helps to get them interested in the discussion, asking questions about resources and the environment and it dovetails with what they’re learning in science classes at school. It might even inspire them to get more involved at school in eco clubs or in organizations that are making a difference. There’s great resources to support their interest for parents, teachers and kids at recycleMYelectronics.ca/learning. You can go through games and quizzes with them there and understand the impact they can have. They can even bring the conversation into their classroom.
In Canada, electronics recycling is managed by the Electronics Products Recycling Association (EPRA) through the Recycle My Electronics program and its network of 2,300 drop-off locations throughout the country. Finding where to take your old electronics is as easy visiting recycleMYelectronics.ca and entering your postal code or address. The website features an interactive map that displays all the drop-off locations near you.
Once you’ve rounded up the old electronics in your home that you’re ready to recycle, there are a few things you need to do first. In order to protect your security, ensure that the account service for the device you’re recycling has been deactivated. Next, clear all personal information from computers, cell phones and electronics and ensure all memory storage areas have been cleared of private information. Remove any SIM cards from cell phones and smartphones.
The majority of electronics manufacturers, as well as wireless carriers and service providers, feature information on erasing your data on their websites and in owner’s manuals. For additional security you can download data erasure software or data shredding apps.
So now that the weather is getting warmer and you’re getting ready to spring forward, you can make your space even more uncluttered by taking back your old electronics while you take back your zen. It’s an opportunity to involve and inspire your kids and help them understand that the future is in their hands. It’s great for your personal environment and the world around us. Give your spring cleaning a deeper meaning and purge your tech while you reclaim your space.
Before bringing your electronic devices to a safe and secure Recycle My Electronics drop-off location, here are some practical electronics recycling tips and suggestions:
Download data erasure software or data shredding apps. Ask an expert. For additional information, visit epsc.ca/how-to-prepare-your-device-for-recycling
Recycle My Electronics only works with recyclers who have been verified under the national Electronics Recycling Standard (ERS), which was designed by the electronics industry to ensure that end-of-life electronics are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
This means that all Recycle My Electronics recyclers are prohibited from exporting electronics or substances of concern to non-OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) nations. In addition, EPRA-approved processors must meet over 150 stringent safety protocols to ensure the safety of their employees and the environment.
Environmental Handling Fees (EHF) are fees that are applied on the sale of all new electronic products. It’s not a tax, nor is it a refundable deposit. The EHF on each item in the Recycle My Electronics program is based on the actual cost to recycle the materials contained in the product. All program revenue is used for the collection, transportation and responsible recycling of end-of-life electronics as well as program administration.
Canadians have diverted 100 million metric tonnes of electronics from landfill and Recycle My Electronics programs in Canada recycle approximately 15.5 million devices a year in this country. That’s approximately 4.47 kilograms per person!
Once collected and sorted, items are sent to an approved Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA) recycling facility for dismantling and the removal of any substances of concern for proper downstream management. All other materials are separated into different streams to recover such parts as metal, plastics and glass and natural resources so they can be processed into new products