The computer you're pecking away at is a hulking mass of toxic waste. The city assures us they're being recycled. The dirty little secret is that there are no eco restrictions on computer disposal, and tonnes of the e-junk is poisoning our landfill as fast as new models are hitting the market.
Number of PCs that end up in landfill every year: 1 million
Number of PCs that will end up in Canadian landfills by 2005: 55 million
Tonnes of computer monitors that will end up in landfills by 2005: 24,472
Tonnes of discarded PCs and servers: 23,349
Tonnes of peripherals (printers, keyboards and mice): 17,396
Tonnes of laptop computers: 2,107
Number of cargo-ship containers full of computer waste we'll have buried by 2005: 6,000
Increase in computer waste since 1999: 40 per cent
Proportion of computer waste that's being reused or recycled: Less than 15 per cent
ADDING TO THE HEAP
Number of PCs in Canadian businesses, homes and educational insitutions: More than 10 million
Total lifespan of a PC before it ends up in the dump: Two to four years
We don't have enough capacity to deal with the old junk or enough facilities to recycle e-scrap.
EXPORTING THE HAZARD
Proportion of PC parts and components that are actually recyclable or reusable: About 50 per cent
Tonnage of computer waste sent to the U.S. for shredding and smelting by two Toronto outfits contracted by the city: 30 a month
Tonnage of computers exported to developing countries every year: 20,000 tonnes
Number of PCs being picked up for recycling at four Toronto tranfer stations: About 1,000 a month
What's in them: Toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium, batteries containing cadmium and mercury, cathode ray tubes containing hazardous lead oxide and barium as well as smaller amounts of arsenic and mercury, older capacitors and transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Canada currently allows the dumping of techno trash in landfill even though this waste is considered "hazardous" under international treaties and conventions.
What it would cost to set up a nationwide recycling program for PCs: $24 million a year
What computer companies propose: Saddling consumers with a $27 "environmental handling charge per computer to cover recycling costs
With reseach by Catherine Farquharson and René Biberstein