Ontario’s e-waste recycling program is a “Soviet Union-esque” disaster

Ontario’s e-waste recycling program is a “Soviet Union-esque” disaster

A big ol' pile of e-waste (Image: Curtis Palmer)

Okay, we’re not going to go quite as far as the critic who equated the provincially mandated Ontario Electronic Stewardship to the U.S.S.R. We’re pretty sure nobody’s accused Dalton McGuinty of turning TVO in to Pravda yet—besides, Steve Paikin wouldn’t let him anyway. But this weekend the Toronto Star reported that the initiative the government of Ontario spearheaded in an attempt to make recycling environmentally dangerous e-waste more eco-friendly is basically a big, fat failure.

The trouble started last summer with the outrage over eco-fees, and now the program is basically dysfunctional. Adding insult to injury, the program is still collecting money—though the amount of the fees is getting slashed—and not doing much with it. And that means OES is sitting on a pile of money, $20 million high. Naturally, government officials and critics alike are wondering what exactly to do with the surplus.

Here’s how the system works: eco-fees go to OES, which is then supposed to spend the money on collecting and recycling old electronics. What’s frustrating about that is Ontario already has a well-proven and cheap way of getting people to return recyclable and reusable materials: it’s called deposit-return, and it’s familiar to anyone who’s ever bought a case of beer (that’s all of us, right?).

Fundamentally, there’s no reason the province couldn’t start a deposit-return system that pays people cash for bringing dead monitors and old cellphone chargers to collection places. According to the Economist, some manufacturers south of the border are looking at doing just that.

The problem with that is that if the government did it now, it would have to cope with people fishing all their dead electronics out of their basements and wanting to cash in. If only the people responsible for cleaning up this mess were already sitting on a pile of cash and wondering what to do with it.

Ontario’s electronics recycling plan coming up short [Toronto Star]