The University of British Columbia has dropped its electronic waste recycler, saying it is concerned about whether it was ethically disposing of computers and other technology.
Genesis Recycling Ltd. had been UBC’s e-waste recycler for three years. But the university is unconvinced by its assurances that material isn’t being shipped and dumped abroad hazardously.
Christian Beaudrie, outreach co-ordinator for UBC Waste Management, said the company does not have a strong auditing process and lacks transparency around its dumping protocol. “We’re absolutely not comfortable with staying with the [program]…for that reason,” said Beaudrie.
Genesis has denied UBC’s assertions and insisted it is meeting the guidelines for ethical recycling. “We’re pretty proud of how we handle e-waste here,” said Doug Surtees, the company’s general manager.
“We’re under a lot of scrutiny, we’ve passed all our audits and inspections with flying colours,” he said.
Genesis is a provincially approved recycler with the Western Canada Computer Industry Association (WCCIA), a non-profit society that oversees a voluntary industry certification program to safely dispose of electronics.
But the university sought written assurances of safe disposal and an impartial audit of Genesis’ practices, said Beaudrie. When Genesis would not cooperate, UBC looked elsewhere.
“We’ve given them an adequate chance to prove that they’re handing these things the right way and they’ve failed to do that,” said Beaudrie.
Related: How Canada tackles e-waste
Concerns have arisen in recent years that some Canadian companies are illegally shipping used electronics to such countries as China, India, Nigeria and Ghana, where they are broken down in unsafe conditions for their raw components, many of them toxic. The process poses a severe health risk and environmental damage.
“It’s just terrible to even imagine feeding that process and putting that many people in harm’s way,” said Beaudrie.
Free Geek Vancouver, a non-profit e-waste recycler, estimates that Canada produces 140,000 tons of electronic waste per year, the equivalent of 5.6 million computers. Eighty per cent of this waste is making it overseas. Canada is a signatory to a 1992 United Nations treaty that made it illegal to ship e-waste overseas.
E-waste problems exposed
CBC News recently exposed that shipments of Canadian e-waste was being sent to China from two British Columbia companies that tout safe disposal, Technotrash and Electronics-recycling.com. Technotrash, like Genesis, is a member of the WCCIA.
Surtees said Genesis is in the midst of undergoing the auditing process to become a member of another industry recycling certification program in BC – one of two in the province – the Electronic Stewardship Program of BC (ESABC).
“We knew we would have to make some changes, we didn’t want to give them document that would be out of date in a month. We haven’t gotten anything back from the auditor yet,” said Surtees, who expects the audit back soon.
UBC is looking at Free Geek Vancouver, Simon Fraser University’s e-waste recycler, and Encorp Pacific as possible e-waste recycling companies.