Talk IT

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					Talk IT
TalkIT is a column written by Michael McConnell, CEO of the Information
Technology Industry Alliance of Nova Scotia (ITANS). It appears in the
Chronicle Herald's business section on the third Thursday of every month.

ISSUES SURROUNDING the environment are front and centre in society. It is virtually
impossible to go a day without hearing about global warming, climate change, or learning
about more efficient ways to use energy and resources.

Corporations and individuals are getting behind campaigns like Flick Off, a Canadian-made
movement that urges everyone to fight climate change by using less energy.

But what happens when your computer flicks off for good? Computers, and the peripheral
materials associated with them, are fixtures in Canadian households. Therefore, Canadians
have a growing need to dispose of them once they are broken or replaced by newer models.

Unfortunately, sending used electronic materials, also known as e-waste, to landfills can be
harmful to the environment. E-waste includes items like televisions, computers (desktop,
notebook and laptop), computer monitors, printers, telephones, facsimile machines and
mobile phones, etc.

E-wastes contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic and chromium, all of which
are known or suspected to harm wildlife and human health.

In fact, these items pose no harm to users. However, once decomposition begins in landfills,
chemicals can seep into the surrounding environment. According to Environment Canada, an
estimated 140,000 tonnes of e-waste are discarded annually in Canadian landfills, and this
number continues to increase.

One organization dedicated to making a change in the e-waste crisis is Electronic Products
Stewardship Canada. Jointly created by the Information Technology Association of Canada
and Electro-Federation Canada, it is an industry-led, not-for-profit organization working to
develop a national electronics end-of-life program in Canada.
A coalition of more than 20 industry-leading manufacturers, it works with partners and
stakeholders to design, promote and implement sustainable solutions for Canada’s electronic
waste problem.

Finding a solution to the e-waste problem is not an easy task. While the management and
disposal of waste is a provincial or municipal responsibility, e-waste is a national issue.

So far, three provinces have implemented electronic recycling programs: Alberta, British
Columbia and Saskatchewan. Management strategies vary between the programs, but there
are some similarities. For instance, they all use existing resources such as established drop-
off locations that already recycle bottles, hazardous materials or tires.

In February 2007, Nova Scotia passed new regulations pertaining to end-of-life electronics.
By February 2008, a provincewide collection system, managed by the Resource Recovery
Fund Board Inc., is expected to be in place.

During the first year, designated collection sites will collect televisions, desktop, laptop and
notebook computers, computer monitors and printers. Items will be collected without charge
and with the assurance that they will be responsibly recycled.

To cover the operating cost of their respective electronic recycling program, Alberta, British
Columbia and Saskatchewan have opted to charge an environmental fee during the initial
sale of applicable items.

That fee can range from $5 on a laptop computer, to $45 on a television with a screen of 46-
inches or larger. At this point, it is not clear if Nova Scotia will follow the same levy system, or
if it will seek alternative funding methods. A structural plan containing more specifics on the
Nova Scotian program is expected by mid-summer.

Advocates of a national standard on electronic recycling programs strive to develop a national
program with characteristics like standard environmental handling fees. A federal policy on
fees would simplify pricing and cost issues for manufacturers and retailers that operate on a
national level.

For Nova Scotians who currently have unwanted electronics on hand, they can store them
until the February 2008 launch of the electronic recycling program, or they can investigate
alternative options.

Items can always be passed along to friends and family, or sold to people who are looking for
parts and components. There are at least two programs that rebuild and refurbish used
computers and donate them to charities: Computers for Schools (
and reBoot Nova Scotia (

Some manufacturers also offer their own recycling programs. A listing of these programs can
be found in the resources section of the EPSC website (

TalkIT is a monthly column prepared by the Information Technology Alliance of Nova Scotia,
an industry organization committed to the development of the sector through lobbying,
networking and training.


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