“What do I do with this old phone (or computer, tablet, iPod, printer)? Is there a way to recycle this electronic device I no longer want or need?” These are questions many of us have probably asked at least once. While some of us are wondering how to responsibly get rid of the electronics we no longer use, others are wondering how to get electronics at an affordable price.
The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) brings Edmontonians an answer to all of these questions. The ERA collects equipment from those who no longer need it, refurbishes it, and provides it to individuals and organizations either for free or at a low cost.
Collecting old equipment
The ERA gets electronic equipment from corporations — who go through their IT cycles, replacing equipment, every three to five years — and individuals, explained Kristi Gartner, marketing and communications manager for the ERA.
People wishing to donate equipment can visit one of the ERA’s depots where there are drop-off bins outside for any non-sensitive equipment, such as computers with the hard drive removed. Inside the depot, friendly and knowledgeable staff are ready to take equipment that requires data removal.
The ERA also does residential pickups if people are not able to bring equipment in. In Calgary, the ERA partners with community associations at community cleanups by providing cages where people can drop off electronic equipment.
The process for corporations is “a little bit different because there’s a greater volume of equipment and I think the sensitivity level is higher,” Gartner said. The ERA will pick up equipment from corporations and sometimes do hard-drive shredding on location. Next, ERA staff take the equipment back with them to finish the disposal and refurbishing process. The ERA also provides a report to corporations that lists the equipment destroyed and documents how data on the equipment was managed.
Refurbishing or recycling the equipment
The ERA can take pretty much anything electronic that doesn’t have a refrigeration element, Gartner said. Typical donations include computers, tablets, printers and phones but the ERA has also accepted old arcade games and stereo equipment.
When the ERA receives equipment, their technical staff check to see if the equipment is reusable and then they clear the data from the equipment and refurbish it.
Sometimes the ERA gets equipment that cannot be refurbished or reused. In these cases, the ERA sends the equipment to one of their recycling partners. “We have accredited recycling partners who assure us of less than one per cent landfill contribution and that would be non-toxic materials,” Gartner said. “So they take everything apart, they take the plastic and the metals and [if] there’s precious metals in there, and they separate everything out, and then melt it down and then it goes back out as a commodity.”
Providing refurbished equipment
Once the equipment has been refurbished, it is either donated or sold at a low-cost price to individuals or organizations such as non-profits and registered charities. Typically, organizations use the equipment to run their operations or they acquire equipment on behalf of their clients. Other organizations build technology libraries for their clients to use.
“In order to qualify for a donation an individual needs to go through a charitable organization, non-profit, care facility or school,” Gartner explained. “So the school or the charity makes the request on that individual’s behalf and then they provide it to them.”
The ERA is also working on expanding its relationship with charities with a program called Moolah for Macros. Charities collect old electronic equipment and get money from the ERA in exchange for the collected equipment. “It’s a good way to raise funds, it’s diverting waste and it’s also a good community event, to get everyone together and get rid of stuff that they don’t need anymore,” Gartner said.
Expanding in Edmonton
The ERA was founded in Calgary in 2004 and currently has locations in major cities across Canada, including Edmonton, where it has had a location since 2006. The ERA is working to raise awareness in Edmonton by attending events and networking.
To build their presence in Edmonton, the ERA has joined the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and is doing events with them. The ERA also hosted an event with The Edmonton Police Service and Servus Credit Union for Fraud Awareness Week. Event attendees had their hard drives shredded for free and learned about e-security.
These kinds of events “are really good to catch people’s attention and get them thinking about what they’re doing with their equipment, or if they need something, that there’s a program available for them to get a computer if they need one,” Gartner said.
Thanks to the ERA, citizens and businesses in Edmonton have a place to safely recycle their old electronics and individuals or charities who need electronic equipment have a place where they can get affordable electronics. It’s a win-win situation.