The government of Alberta is in the process of setting up a province-wide computer recycling program and evaluating regional organizations and companies that could participate.
On June 1, the province established the Alberta Recycling Management Authority to oversee the program that will begin
operation on Oct. 1. The authority will use existing recycling programs as a model for the best way to handle old computers and electronics.
“”We have a lot of experience with tire recycling and of course with bottle depots and used oil,”” says Alberta Environment spokesperson Val Mellesmoen. “”The closest model to what we’re able to do with electronics… is with the tires.””
The province’s tire recycling program has been in place for 12 years. A fee is collected anytime someone buys a tire. That fee goes into a fund that covers the cost of collection and transportation back to the nearest recycling depot.
A similar levy will be placed on electronics and computer equipment. The final amounts haven’t been decided, but will range from $5 to $12 for laptops and PCs, $12 for monitors and $15 to $45 for TVs, depending on their size.
“”We’ve told Albertans that that’s what they can expect. That’s part of the model we support in Alberta. People have to realize that there’s a cost to recycling,”” says Mellesmoen.
The Alberta Recycling Management Authority will be responsible for setting for final fees as well as co-ordinating with municipalities that have a pre-existing recycling program and with organizations that wish to participate with the province.
One such organization is the Electronic Recycling Association of Alberta, a not-for-profit based in Calgary. The ERA has collected more than 1,000 PCs in the 18 months it has existed, according to its director Bojan Paduh, and currently has about 300 to 400 PCs on its premises.
Equipment that’s too old to be useful to anyone is stripped down and its individual components are recycled.
“”You wouldn’t believe how much interest there is in this kind of equipment. Anything over 233 MHz, people can still use,”” says Paduh.
He says he’s had interest in older PCs that can be refurbished from schools in Croatia, Afghanistan and Africa.
“”They’ve told us that any PIIs we can get, we can send over to them and they’ll pay for shipping because they’d love to have them in their schools.””
Canadian schools would be less likely to benefit, since they’re already a generation or two ahead and are more likely to donate their own equipment.
“”They already have Pentium IIIs and Pentium 4s and they’re the ones that sometimes end up giving us the equipment… They want the good stuff,”” says Paduh.
Paduh recently collaborated with a Web hosting firm in Edmonton called Interspot Inc., which offered to collect used equipment from local area residents and companies. Aside from donating several of its own old PCs, says operations director Michael Verhoeven, “”we had a lot of response from doctors and dentists in the area that had systems that were still in decent condition, but they wanted newer stuff.””
Paduh has made several trips to Interspot in Edmonton, as well as other local businesses, and returned to Calgary with truckloads of equipment.
Verhoeven adds that he wanted to show the ERA “”that there is a need for them here. We thought that by temporarily using our facility (as a recycling depot) it would show them that there is public interest.””
Paduh says he plans to work in tandem with the Alberta Recycling Management Authority as soon it is officially set up to become part of the province-wide program. His goal is place a container at every landfill in the province where people can drop off their equipment.
Mellesmoen says the government of Alberta is still in the process of determining who the most appropriate recipients of refurbished PCs would be through the government program.
“”I think it’s going to take us a least two years to get all of these issues worked out and identify all of the opportunities,”” she says.