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Stewardship on the rise in Ontario

OES marks two years of growth

The OES Electronics Recycling Centre which tours around Ontario as part of the organization's collection events, and to educate Ontarians on safe, responsible electronics recycling.
The OES Electronics Recycling Centre which tours around Ontario as part of the organization's collection events, and to educate Ontarians on safe, responsible electronics recycling.

by Keith Barker

Although 85 percent of Ontarians live within 10 kilometres of a location where they can drop off their end of life electronics, nearly a third of business leaders in the province are unaware of their electronic recycling options and don’t know what to do with their e-waste. This, according to information gathered by Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) through various channels, including a survey done at 

OES is a non-profit industry funding organization responsible for Ontario’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Program Plan. Companies that import, manufacture and market electronic products in the province are designated as “stewards” of OES, and are legally obligated to register, report and pay fees to OES for operation of the program.

The first phase of OES’ program was launched in April 2009, with the goal of tackling the estimated 85,000 to 100,000 tonnes of unwanted and obsolete electronic waste produced in Ontario each year. Under the program, about 44 different products are now eligible for diversion from landfill through a network of over 600 collection locations run by e-cycling and reuse partners who have met specific standards, and who are monitored on a regular basis. 

Phase 1 of the program included desktop and portable computers, computer peripherals, monitors, printers, fax machines and televisions. Phase 2, which began in April of 2010, added in materials such as phones, cameras and audiovisual equipment.

“We’re at two years as of April 1, 2011,” says Carol Hochu, OES’ Executive Director. “OES is a relative new-comer in Canada. There are several other provincial programs like ours, that have what we call industry-led electronic waste recycling programs. The ones that came before us include B.C., Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Alberta as well, but it is more government-run than industry-led.”

“Part of our mandate in Ontario is of course, promoting the availability of the program to both residences and businesses,” continues Hochu. “A good chunk of year one was spent building the collection, transportation and processing network and infrastructure, and as well, starting to tell Ontarians (mostly residents at the start) about the availability of this program. The last half of year two, we’ve really been focused on the IC&I (Industrial, Commercial and Institutional) sector.”

OES is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors which represent the electronic industry’s supply chain, and is funded by fees paid to OES by stewards: the manufacturers, first importers, assemblers and marketers of electronics in Ontario. These funds are used exclusively to pay for material management costs – such as paying collectors, transporters and processors, as well as for common costs like R&D, promotion, education and administration. 

“It’s of course up to our stewards to decide how they want to manage the fees they are required to pay, throughout their supply chain,” explains Hochu. “In some cases, they might absorb it, and in some cases they might pass it along to the next level in the supply chain, and it may end up showing up at the point of purchase. So the consumer may ultimately be paying it. But, all of the funds come to OES, and all the fees are used to pay the costs associated with this program.”

Part of these costs include fees paid by OES to Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO). WDO is the non-crown corporation created under the Waste Diversion Act (WDA) in 2002, and which was established to develop, implement and operate waste diversion programs for a wide range of materials in the province. Since it’s inception, the Minister of the Environment has designated blue box waste, WEEE, oil material, Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste, and most recently, tires, under the WDA.

“Stewardship is the model adopted by all the provinces where there are e-waste programs in place,” continues Hochu. “We use the electronics recycling standard (ERS) developed by Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (EPSC), which is part of a larger program called the recycler qualification program.”

How Canada compares
Clearly, one of the big differences between Canada and the U.S., when it comes to e-waste recycling, is the EPSC. Through the EPSC, Canada has a national standard which designates approved processors, provides nation-wide consistency, and ensures compliance on a country-wide basis with respect to human health and the environment. 

In the U.S., Hochu says around half of the country’s states have some measure of laws vis-a-vis e-waste recycling. There are however no federal requirements or legislation in the U.S. which pertain to all states, and there are two organizations (R2 and e-Stewards) which promote two slightly different standards for processing end-of-life electronics.

“I believe a lot of the state programs also do not collect the same range of material that we collect. We collect tv’s, monitors and computers, but we also collect a whole lot more than that, whereas in the States, they tend to collect mostly tv’s, monitors and computers.”

“With respect to R2 and e-Stewards standards, the organizations that are promoting these standards are certainly reaching out to all North American processors, whether they have facilities located in Canada or the U.S. It’s obviously within their right to do so, and it might make sense for Canadian processors who are trying to attract U.S. business, to get themselves certified to the U.S. standards.”

“In a perfect world, we all would have been on the same standard, but we find the Canadian standard to be a very high standard and certainly all of the provincial programs are using the ERS.” 

“As far as Europe goes, in comparison to Canada and the U.S., there’s certainly a perception among legislators and regulators, that Europe is “ahead” of us, followed by Canada and the U.S. – in terms of experience dealing with e-waste, and how long they’ve had their programs in place.”  

The next steps
The blue box program in Ontario, which is the province’s oldest stewardship program, and which is run by Stewardship Ontario, has been in operation for about 25 years now.

“It goes to show how long it takes for these kinds of programs to become fully ingrained in the psyche of Ontarians. We’re trying to get people to adopt a behaviour around electronics, which is not top of mind, so while we’ve done some good work in our first two years, there’s obviously more that we can do.”

As for the next phase of electronics to be designated, Hochu says it’s up to the Minister of the Environment. “We currently don’t take appliances, (large or small) white goods, microwaves, or smoke detectors, among other products.” 

And as far as which products, outside of the electronics realm, will come next as Ontario progresses with more and more stewardship programs, Hochu says; “Again, it’s really up to the Minister of the Environment, but given that we’re heading up to a provincial election in October, I don’t think they’ll be anything new designated between now and then. But it all remains to be seen.”

“There have been a number of consultations recently, and certainly C&D materials has been flagged by the Minister as a category where a lot is still going to landfill,” she says. “Mattresses and carpeting would also be natural next areas for designation of waste diversion stewardship programs.”

To learn more about electronic waste recycling programs across Canada, visit the EPSC’s website at In B.C.:; in Alberta:; in Saskatchewan:; in Ontario and; and in Nova Scotia and PEI: Ontario Electronic Stewardship  

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