Managing Information Technology Waste in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo
van de Merwe, Sarah
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Information technology (IT) is one of the fastest growing product groups on the market today (Babu et al., 2006). This technology has become inexpensive to produce and continues to improve in the areas of memory, speed, operating systems, weight, and audio/visual capabilities (Envirosris, 2000). All of these factors have led to a decrease in product lifespan and an increase in the amount of IT-waste produced. IT-waste contains a number of hazardous materials. If this waste is not managed appropriately it can create serious environmental and human health problems. In Canada, there are no federal policies in place to manage IT-waste. Management of IT-waste has largely been the responsibility of local governments. Consequently, there is no uniformity. A wide spectrum of management approaches ranges from ‘do nothing’ to enacting bans to prohibit this waste from entering landfills. Recently (April 1, 2009), a program (Ontario Electronic Stewardship Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment- OES WEEE) has been created at the provincial level to help with IT management. Residential participation in this program remains voluntary. This research is exploratory and aims at examining the potential for a sustainable integrated waste management (IWM) plan for residential IT-waste, using the Regional Municipality of Waterloo (RMoW) as a case study. A multiple methods approach was employed to gain an understanding of IT-waste issues and to develop a set of sustainable IWM criteria for evaluation of the OES program and RMoW. Methods used to collect data included: a literature review, surveys, plan analysis, direct observation, key informant interviews, and archival research. A number of recommendations apply specifically to Waterloo Region. Others more broadly address local governments across Ontario for better management of residential IT-waste and other e-waste products.