Small appliances causing big recycling problems in Manitoba

Despite physically being able to recycle small appliances, many aren’t allowed to be in Manitoba.

Every day, people drop off recyclables with Equal Opportunities West – a depot that pays adults with intellectual disabilities to sort electronic recyclables.

“Participants will meet people at the door, help take the recycling out of the car, and then we’ll bag it and sort it,” Executive Director Susan Morgan said inside their sorting garage.

She says when they find small appliances like coffee makers, air fryers, and hair curlers in their bin, workers take them apart and separate the materials that can be recycled.

“I’m thankful that they are coming here because at least something’s being done with them. Like they’re not just ending up in the landfill.”

But – many of those appliances as a whole aren’t allowed to be recycled in Manitoba. What’s stopping them breaks down to red tape.

Dennis Neufeld, the program director with Electronic Products Recycling Association in Manitoba says it’s about provincial regulations.

“It’s actually just the item,” Neufeld said. “It’s that coffee makers are not part of the program. But the depots are quite ingenious on how they deal with that.”

Morgan says they break the appliances apart, searching for recyclables.

“We would take off the electrical cord, we take off most of the metals that we can. Plastics are a problem, especially in small appliances.”

Neufeld says the list of what can be recycled hasn’t been updated since 2010 – before many of the gadgets people are looking to recycle today were on store shelves.

Mark Kinsley, the city’s waste diversion superintendent, says its workaround is accepting many small appliances for its scrap metal.

“The industry is working on adding those other items such as air fryers and toasters and all that but they’re not there yet. So that’s where the cut-off is.”

“We’re really hoping that we can catch up with the items that Manitobans, they really want to recycle these items. They are looking for a place to put them and we want to be that place.”

He’s hopeful provincial regulations will change soon.

Once that happens – Morgan thinks small appliance recycling will make a big difference.

“We’ll probably get more. I do think that people just don’t know where to take it so it goes in the garbage.”  

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