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Recycling the technology of Christmas past

Leslie Walden, director of Asset Investment Recovery distribution centre, holds a handful of cellphones destined for the shredder at the warehouse on Glanford Avenue. The centre accepts electronics and small appliances for recycling. - Sharon Tiffin/News staff
Leslie Walden, director of Asset Investment Recovery distribution centre, holds a handful of cellphones destined for the shredder at the warehouse on Glanford Avenue. The centre accepts electronics and small appliances for recycling.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

If we're living in Christmas present, the Asset Investment Recovery warehouse is a graveyard of Christmas past.

At the Glanford Avenue depot, bins overflow with clamshell flip-phones, once-beloved BlackBerrys, Palm Pilots and long and best forgotten Apple Newtons. Towering stacks of computer towers and rows of bulky cathode ray tube monitors offer a reminder that household technology was once heavy and cumbersome. Even the pioneering generations of flat-screen TVs are piling up.

While families revel in the best technology 2013 has to offer with gifts and holiday shopping, the depot holds what technology five years ago – or even one year ago – had to offer, and has since been surpassed by the latest iPhone or Galaxy or tablet or Playstation.

As households make way for the new, what is old often ends up on the doorstep of Asset Investment Recovery in a growing and now annual ritual, whether the facility open or not.

"We definitely see a big influx, over the month (of January) anyway," said Leslie Walden, director of Asset Investment Recovery centre. "People can bring electronics and small appliances to use for recycling and be environmentally responsible. We want to decrease what goes into the landfill."

The Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services department accepts "e-waste" and small household appliances for free for the Encorp Return-It Electronics recycling program. The program is funded by the environmental handling fee paid at the time of purchase.

People can drop of electronics and small appliances for free at most Bottle Depots or Return-It centres, but Asset Investment Recovery is the only location in B.C. with a machine, named Eddie, designed to shred computer hard drives and other storage media. That service comes at an extra charge.

In a loading bay at the depot, a half dozen tubs hold nothing but shredded plastics and metals from discarded cellphones and memory. In the past nine months the depot has shredded 4,445 hard drives from the public, government ministries, police and private sector businesses, 4,316 cell phones and 3,600 kg of CDs and DVDs. Overall the facility diverted 279,000 kg of electronic waste from the landfill.

Electronics, appliances and shredded hard drives are shipped to four approved electronic recyclers on the Mainland under a program designed to prevent the dumping of e-waste in developing nations. Circuit boards for instance are smelted to recover metals and rare earths in Canada, the U.S., Japan and Belgium, according to Encorp.

Of course not every household object falls under the recycling program, although people often leave "anything with a plug," staff members say. Employee Ryan Massey found a sewage pump dumped off one year. He also noted people will try to recycle electronics that are working.

"A lot of people drop off goods that still have use. We had a perfectly good 17-inch flat screen that came in and the owner said it still works," Massey said. "I asked him to give it away. Please donate to somebody first. It will come back here eventually."

Asset Investment Recovery is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. See return-it.ca/locations/capital-regional-district for a list of recycling depots in Greater Victoria.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

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