Electronics have become an integral part of today’s societies and have significantly revolutionized the way people communicate, process information, and view entertainment. We live in a society where new things are appreciated more, and for every new electronic gadget that hits the market, one or more become obsolete or reach their end-of-life. Consequently, electronic waste (or e waste) has become the fastest growing constituent of municipal solid waste. This makes e-waste recycling an important endeavor for every environmental-conscious administration or government—and for a number of reasons.
Electronic recycling comes with a plethora of benefits: it reduces waste and the associated waste handling costs, lowers environmental impact that would have occurred if products were manufactured from raw materials, and lessens dependence on foreign supplies of minerals and other valuable materials extracted from electronic devices. However, Canadian electronic recycling industry still has a long way to go due to the many challenges that are currently facing the industry.
Lack of comprehensive legislation
Lack of proper legislation in regards to e waste recycling in Canada continues to be a big challenge for electronic waste recyclers. The current e-waste legislations are not consistent and focus on varying aspects of e waste products and recycling requirements. Still, the industry has to work with elected leaders to push for more inclusive e-waste legislation and some consistency in its management.
Decline in the price of commodities
The commodities that the current recycling programs are receiving are items that haven’t been sold for several years in Canada. This is another great challenge for the electronic waste recycling industry considering that these commodities don’t have a lot of useful material inside them. Some have glasses that require special handling due to their lead content, which further comes at a cost to manage effectively. Many recycling companies are also limited on what to do with some of the e-waste materials like CRT glasses because the previous options of turning the glass to new CRT have become obsolete.
Lack of education and public awareness
The general public is still not fully aware of the hazardous content in some of their old electronic gadgets—lead, mercury, CRTs and other hazardous materials. The concerned authorities haven’t done enough in leading education efforts and designating proper locations for people to recycle electronic waste.
Generally, the lifecycle of electronic waste products are very short. For instance, while a vehicle can typically be possessed for 10-12 years, mobile phones and other electronics have between 2 and 5 years lifespan. Accordingly, recyclers need to adapt and come up with strategies to counter the many challenges facing the industry. For example, recyclers need to be aggressive in handling new e-waste commodities that are coming on board. Additionally, e-waste products are getting smaller and more complex, and advanced recycling technologies need to be adopted.