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Taking out the E-Trash

Don't know what to do with that old 1970s computer monitor gathering dust and taking up space in your basement? How about that old cell phone that doesn't have the fancy picture-taking capabilities that your new one does? If you can't find someone wh

Don't know what to do with that old 1970s computer monitor gathering dust and taking up space in your basement? How about that old cell phone that doesn't have the fancy picture-taking capabilities that your new one does?

If you can't find someone who wants it second hand, why not bring these and all the other electronic items you can't seem to get rid of to Squamish's first electronic waste round-up?

On Sunday, April 25, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., residents are invited to bring intact computer equipment, cell phones, audio-visual materials, Fax machines, answering machines, camcorders, electric typewriters, pagers and palm pilots free of charge to the dump, to be appropriately packaged and shipped to Maxus Tech in Calgary for complete recycling. Only residential waste will be accepted and scavenging will not be permitted.

Electronic waste is clearly the next garbage tsunami to hit Canadian communities. The numbers are enormous. Between 1992 and 2000, Canadians disposed of enough computers and monitors to fill 1,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. And, in 2005, Canadians are expected to throw away almost 72,000 tonnes of e-waste.

The problem is, many electronic products contain toxic ingredients (lead, mercury, bromine, and cadmium are a few), and are considered hazardous. According to Environment Canada, the average computer monitor contains two kilograms of lead. By 2005, yearly disposal figures for personal computers alone will contain an estimated 4.5 tonnes of cadmium and 1.1 tonnes of mercury. If improperly disposed of, these materials can pose a significant threat to human and environmental health.

"Most people keep e-waste on their shelves. The majority of it ends up in the landfills," said Wendy Horan, Waste Reduction Co-ordinator for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. "This is our chance to be proactive citizens. Resources are being put into the wrong spot. They can be 100 per cent recycled and put back into the stream of production."

The major sponsor for the event is the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. Other sponsors include: Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), Carney's Waste Systems, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), Sperling Hansen and Associates Inc., and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation EnviroFund.

"A lot of people have asked us, why Calgary?" said Horan. "There are only two companies in the west that guarantee no export, no incineration and no prison-labour is utilized in their method of getting rid of e-waste, and one of these companies is in Calgary," she explained.

In conjunction with the Free Dump weekend (it normally costs $80/tonne for regular household waste) and Pitch-In week, this is Squamish's chance to do some major spring-cleaning.

"Product stewardship is becoming a wave in society. We hope that within the year, some manufacturers will be taking back computers with their own stewardship program," said Horan.

If you think your computer can still be used, the Sea to Sky Freenet Association in Squamish (www.sea-to-sky.net) takes computers and monitors. Visit their Community Access Training Center on Third Avenue.

For more information on how people or organizations can make this event a success, please contact Wendy Horan at 1-800-298-7753 ext. 236 or email her at zerowaste@slrd.bc.ca.

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