Electronics Recycling Program

FAQ - Electronics Recycling Program

Why electronics recycling?

When electronics are disposed of in landfills, burned or left on the land and exposed to rain, snow and wind, materials can leach out that are harmful to the environment and human health [1].  Recycling electronics helps keep these pollutants out of our environment.      

Electronics also contain valuable materials such as aluminum, copper, plastics and precious and rare metals, which can be recycled into new products. Recycling old electronics into new products minimizes environmental impacts related to extracting raw materials through mining and other activities.

Electronics recycling options for NWT residents are currently limited. In many communities, electronics are disposed at the landfill with regular garbage. Some local governments, such as those in Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith, separate electronics at the landfill for recycling but the cost of recycling electronics can be a barrier to recycling locally.

Why is there a fee on new electronics?

While there are numerous benefits to recycling electronics, there is a financial cost [2]. The value of materials found in electronics is generally less than the combined cost of collecting, sorting, dismantling and transporting them, especially when it comes to difficult materials such as glass from old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions, which contain lead.

Environmental handling fees collected on new electronics go into the GNWT Environment Fund to cover the costs of operating the Electronics Recycling Program (the Program). Through these fees, the cost of electronics recycling is shifted from general taxpayers (i.e. community and municipal government budgets) to electronics users.

There is no charge to drop off electronics for recycling.

Will I get a refund when I return my electronics for recycling?

No. A refundable deposit is not included in the environmental handling fee collected when new electronics are purchased and no refunds are provided for electronics returned for recycling.

Where do I take my electronics for recycling?

Electronics started being accepted for recycling on February 1, 2016. In January 2016, the locations, dates and hours of electronics recycling depots and collection events were posted on ENR’s website and widely publicized through radio and newspaper ads, and on community bulletin boards. Electronics retailers are also encouraged to display materials provided by ENR to promote the Program.

What happens to electronics collected under the Program?

Electronics collected at recycling depots are transported to Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik where they are stored at beverage container processing centres. When there is enough volume, they are shipped to an electronics recycler in Alberta for recycling.

The GNWT will select an electronics recycler through a competitive bid. The successful electronics recycler must be registered under the Government of Alberta electronics recycling program. This requirement ensures important environmental and employee health and safety standards are met and no electronics are sent to countries where standards are not in place to protect the environment and employee health and safety.

Why won't electronics be recycled in the NWT?

The GNWT's first priority under this program is to establish an NWT electronics collection system--that is, community depots and collection events. Information on the quantity of electronics collected in the first two years of the Program will help determine if an NWT recycling facility is desirable. It is anticipated the volume collected may not be sufficient to make an NWT facility feasible. Another key consideration is having measures in place to ensure the proper management of electronics to minimize risks to human health and the environment.

What about electronics not included in the Program?

There is no fee for electronics not included in the Program and they are not being accepted at community depots and collection events for recycling. Managing this waste will remain the responsibility of community and municipal governments, who will decide if they will collect non-program electronics for recycling. 

One to two years after the launch of the Program, the Regulations may be expanded to include other electronics. Beginning with a limited list of electronic categories allows time to establish the NWT program before expanding it broadly, It also  allows for alignment with the Alberta program.

How were the fees determined?

Environmental handling fees on new electronics are set based on the cost of running the Program. Consideration was also given to how the new fees compare to fees in other Canadian jurisdictions. Fees vary by category of electronics to reflect the specific costs of recycling each item, which vary depending on size and types of material they contain. NWT fees have been informed by fees in other Canadian jurisdictions, which reflect the full cost of recycling specific products.

Fees are set as low as possible, while still making sure the Program is sustainable.  

Costs paid for by environmental fees collected on electronics include:

  • payments to NWT depot operators
  • payments to NWT processing centres for the collection and consolidation of electronics
  • transportation to electronics processors
  • supplies used for storing and shipping electronics
  • fees to electronics processors for electronics recycling
  • payments to the Alberta Recycling Management Authority for registering distributors, collecting environmental fees and compliance (as per our contract with them
  • outreach to promote the program

The estimated program expenses used to determine the fees do not include staff salaries. 

How do NWT fees compare to other jurisdictions?

The NWT fees are comparable to start-up fees in Alberta and proposed fees in the Yukon (see Table 1 below). Fees in other programs generally started high and went down over time once the programs were established and older electronics, which are more expensive to recycle, were collected.

Electronics Recycling Startup Fees in other jurisdictions

Current fees across Canada are outlined in Table 2 below. NWT fees are no more than $8.25 higher than the high end of fees in other jurisdictions.                                

Electronics Recycling Current Fees in Canadian Programs

Alberta’s program is the oldest in Canada. It has been running for more than 10 years and current fees have been reduced significantly to draw down the fund that has built up over the years. Alberta fees do not currently cover the cost for operating the program.

Fees are set to minimize the impact on smaller electronics that are more easily purchased outside the NWT and transported into the Territory by residents. For example, fees on laptop computers are only $1.80 more than in Alberta. For large electronics such as a 48-inch television and a floor standing printer, NWT fees are higher since it is less likely residents will transport these larger, more fragile items into the NWT during personal travel.

What are the roles and responsibilities of electronics distributors? 

Under the Regulations any person selling, distributing or manufacturing electronics in the NWT is an electronics distributor. Beginning February 1, 2016, all distributors are required to:

  1. Register under the Program.
  2. Apply environmental handling fees on designated electronics and clearly identify these fees on customer receipts and in advertising.
  3. Report regularly and remit fees to the Environment Fund as applicable.

How are online sales included in the program?

All online distributors who ship electronics into the NWT are required to register under the Program and to charge the environmental fees. This includes distributors like Amazon, Apple and Dell, all of which are already registered in Alberta’s electronics recycling programs.

Ensuring online distributors are captured is a key part of establishing a level playing field for all electronics distributors in the NWT.

Letters have been distributed broadly by the GNWT and Alberta Recycling (as part of the GNWT partnership with Alberta) informing electronics distributors of the NWT Electronics Recycling Regulations and the responsibilities of NWT distributors under these regulations:

Letters were sent to all NWT distributors with physical businesses in the NWT. These distributors were asked to identify all of their suppliers, including online distributors. Letters were emailed to all of the nearly 2,000 distributors registered in Alberta. This mail out included 110 businesses identified as internet sellers that distribute in Alberta and includes major distributors such as Inc., Apple Canada Inc., Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., Dell Canada Inc., Best Buy Canada Ltd., and The Source Electronics Inc. The NWT Program is aligned with Alberta’s electronics recycling program and it is expected the majority of NWT online sales are carried out by distributors already registered in the Alberta program. 

How will the GNWT make sure all electronic distributors, including online distributors, comply with the Regulations?

The following measures have been put in place to make sure all electronics distributors, including local and national retailers, comply with the Electronics Recycling Regulations:

  1. The NWT Program is aligned with the Alberta electronics recycling program. The list of electronics included in the NWT program is the same as the Alberta list and  processes for distributor registration and reporting and fee remittance are closely aligned with Alberta. All distributors registered in the Alberta program were notified of the NWT program. Aligning the two programs means a distributor registered in Alberta simply needs to expand on what they are already in compliance with the NWT program. Alberta has made good progress in bringing Alberta distributors into compliance. It is expected that most, if not all, NWT online distributors are already registered in Alberta.
  2. Regular searches will be conducted by an independent firm to identify distributors that are not registered and appropriate action will be taken to get them registered.        
  3. Registered distributors will receive in-person compliance reviews. Sales invoices and other relevant information will be reviewed to ensure sales are being accurately reported and fees accurately remitted. These reviews will be conducted for all types of registered companies, including those outside the NWT.
  4. Distributors failing to comply with the regulations will be guilty of an offense under the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act

Online distributors are treated the same as any other distributor supplying into the NWT.

What are the roles and responsibilities of depot and processing center operators?

Depots and processing centres require licenses to collect electronics. As part of the licensing process, they are required to meet standards for collecting, storing and preparing electronics for shipment. These standards ensure the safety of depot staff and the public, protect the environment from exposure to potential pollutants and ensure electronics are stored securely to minimize theft and vandalism.

Depot and processing center operators are paid based on the quantity of electronics they collect. Monthly grants are also available in smaller communities where tonnage is limited by a small population.

Existing beverage container depots and processing centres, which are expanding to accept electronics, operate under a five-year license. If other individuals express interest in providing these services, they will be considered once these licenses expire.

How can community and municipal governments help support the program?

The GNWT is seeking support from community and municipal governments to help promote the Program. Local governments have much to gain from the Program, including extending the life of their landfills and reducing human and financial resources needed to manage electronic waste.

The potential roles of community and municipal governments include:      

  • Post information provided by the GNWT about the Program at government offices, at the landfill and in other public spaces.
  • Generally promote the Program--for example, at public events, on the radio and through utility bill inserts.
  • Discourage residents from bringing electronics to the landfill or designate an area at the landfill for electronics and regularly deliver them to recycling depots.
  • Consider hosting an electronics collection event.

What consultation took place on the Program?

Input from stakeholders has been invited throughout the development of the Program:

  • In 2008 the GNWT consulted with NWT residents to help determine which waste products to focus on.  The results of the consultation indicated that products that were a priority for the NWT to divert from landfills were paper and cardboard, milk containers, single-use retail bags, and electronic waste. 
  • Throughout the development of the Program, the GNWT gathered input from its Waste Reduction and Recovery Advisory Committee (WRRAC), a multi-stakeholder committee established under the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act. There was general support from WRRAC for the Program.
  • In August 2012, an e-waste survey was conducted with NWT residents to gain additional information regarding electronic products use and purchasing habits.
  • In spring 2014 to February 2015 phone interviews were conducted with representatives from large volume electronics users. Participants included:
    • The Northwest Territories Power Corporation
    • GNWT Public Works and Services
    • Yellowknife Education District #1
    • Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
    • Large mines
    • KBL
    • The City of Yellowknife

Respondents were supportive of the Program, which they felt would enable them to recycle their electronics. No major concerns were raised and feedback received informed the design of the electronics collection system.

  • In January 2015 an invitation was distributed to broad stakeholders inviting their feedback on the Program. Stakeholders were emailed a document that provided an overview of the proposed program, including fees, and were invited to provide feedback. The following stakeholders were included:
    • Industry associations representing electronics manufacturers, distributors and retailers
    • NWT and local Chambers of Commerce offices
    • Arctic Co-operatives Limited
    • Northwest Company
    • NWT Association of Communities
    • Large volume electronics users (see bullet point above)
    • Waste managers

Feedback was primarily received from industry associations representing national electronics manufacturers, distributors and retailers. No stakeholders expressed opposition to the overall Program and input received informed the program design.

  • In May and June 2015 local electronics retailers were called for a phone interview. No local retailers had responded to the January 2015 invitation and department staff wanted to ensure local retailers were informed of the proposed program and that staff were informed of any of any retailer concerns. All those listed below participated in the interview unless noted.
    • Global Storm IT, Yellowknife
    • Pioneer Supply House, Yellowknife
    • Roy’s Audio Video Unlimited, Yellowknife (not available for interview)
    • Tamarack Computers, Yellowknife
    • Superior Sound, Hay River
    • Arctic Digital, Inuvik
    • Sahtu Computer Services, Norman Wells
    • Arctic Co-operatives Limited (five stores across the NWT sell designated electronics; one representative from their head office and two store representatives participated in an interview)      

All but one of the local distributors interviewed generally supported an NWT Electronics Recycling Program, and did express some concerns. One respondent was not supportive and was concerned that no compensation would be provided to distributors. General concerns from respondents focused on two areas:

1. Providing compensation to distributors for collecting the surcharge

To address this concern changes were made to responsibilities of local retailers who get their supplies from distributors outside the NWT. These retailers will not be responsible for reporting on their sales nor remitting the fee to the GNWT. They will simply pay the fee to their distributors at the time of purchase and their distributors will remit the fee to the Environment Fund.

2. Ensuring a level playing field for all distributors, including online and national retailers/distributors

The GNWT is taking two main steps to ensure a level playing field. The first step is to include all electronics distributors that sell or distribute electronics in or into the NWT in the Program, including online sales. The second step is to carry out compliance activities via Alberta Recycling to ensure all distributors are registered and collecting and remitting fees appropriately.

What 's happening with electronics in the rest of Canada? 

Regulated electronics recycling programs are in place or under development in all Canadian provinces and the Yukon (New Brunswick and the Yukon are currently developing programs and all other provinces have them in place). All nine existing provincial electronics recycling programs charge fees on electronics.

[1] Materials in electronics that can be harmful include brominated flame retardants and halogenated hydrocarbons as well as heavy metals such as cadmium, copper, mercury and lead.

[2] Transporting electronics from a typical NWT community and processing them costs about $5,000 to $8,000 per load.