E waste and the darling trucks of May

Last Tuesday morning, I was running through the falling snow in Riverdale, hurrying to sign off on a shipping manifest for a trailer-full of electronic waste at the Computers for Schools warehouse.

Last Tuesday morning, I was running through the falling snow in Riverdale, hurrying to sign off on a shipping manifest for a trailer-full of electronic waste at the Computers for Schools warehouse.

I had two reasons to be in a hurry: First, I did not want to keep the fellow from the trucking company waiting. Second, I just wanted, at long last, to finally get rid of some of that e-waste.

Sometimes, even telling yourself that all things come to those who wait does not make the waiting any easier.

The weather I was running through may have been unseasonably snowy, but the weather at the start of this month, as most of you will fondly remember, had been unseasonably warm—and that warmth had finally thawed the ice off the shipping pallets the e-waste had spent the winter frozen down on.

Even if you are not familiar with the back story, most of you have probably seen something of the problem I was so eager to start getting rid of: the stacked piles of dead electronics—monitors, computer towers, defunct televisions and printers and fax machines—waiting plastic-wrapped in rows in the YTG Education department compound on Lewes Boulevard.

The Computers for Schools program (for which I work as a part-time manager) has a warehouse in that compound, dedicated to taking in old computers, refurbishing them, and distributing them free-of-charge to various educational and not-for-profit organizations in the Yukon.

In the course of doing that, Computers for Schools Yukon made the forgivable but troublesome error of allowing itself to become labelled as the Yukon’s computer and electronics recycling agency—a task it has neither the financial nor human resources to take on, at least on the scale that task has grown to today.

Simply put, we found ourselves, as the Yukon autumn closed in, stuck with piles of dead electronics that had no value to our mission of recycling usable computers; and we were taking some understandable heat from other people in the compound about the unsightly mess in front of our warehouse.

Some urgent negotiations with two YTG departments—Environment and Highways and Public Works—garnered our little shop some $45,000 toward getting rid of this stuff, or at least a good share of it.

That gave us resources to acquire some extra help to sort, stack and package a lot of the mess, and to engage the services of a local trucking company and a electronics recycling company in British Columbia.

By the end of October, we had a sizable share of the e-waste pile set in order, and one truckload sent south.

Then our weather luck ran out.

A sequence of snowfalls, followed by thaws and freezes, meant the pallets were now thoroughly frozen into the ground, and not likely to be movable until the spring came.

That snowy Tuesday morning, though not the ideal candidate for the honour, turned out to be just the spring day I had been waiting for.

Once the paperwork was finished, the trailer left the lot with 21 pallets in it—11 pallets of computer monitors, five of computer towers, and five of general electronic bric-a-brac which the recycling company (Genesis Recycling, out of Aldergrove, BC) charges us for by the pound.

In case you are wondering, each computer monitor costs $8 to recycle, and there are usually 36 of them on a pallet; each computer tower costs $6 to recycle, and there can be anywhere from 50 to 60 of them to a pallet; the miscellaneous e-waste gets billed out at 35 cents a pound, at an average of roughly 1,500 pounds (or $525) per pallet.

A similarly mixed shipment in October cost us $7,800 in recycling fees, with a further $2,700 in shipping, for a total of $10,500.

With the financial support remaining from YTG’s contribution—and allowing for a fair amount of price variation from one truck to the next—that means Computers for Schools Yukon can ship a total of three truckloads this spring.

In fact, by the time you read this, those darling trucks of May should already be down the road.

That’s the good news.

Now comes the bad news.

My best estimate is that the four loads shipped so far represent about half of what is currently in the yard, either stacked on pallets or lying around in the heap that still exists by the warehouse door.

We are going to need more time, more help—and some more patience from our neighbours in the compound—to stack and ship the rest of it all before we get frozen into the ground again.

Still, the e-waste stream, like the Yukon River, has finally had its spring break-up, even if it happened on a snowy, miserable May morning.

Rick Steele is a technology junkie

who lives in Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read