COMMENT: Teck's electronic recycling initiatives
I recently had a very interesting meeting with a representative of Teck Trail Operations and learned something that I am not sure many people are aware of.
Teck has been at the forefront of metals recycling since they developed the first lead-acid battery recycling program in Canada over 20 years ago. Today, battery waste is received from all over North America and the recycled lead from these vehicle batteries composes up to 20 percent of the total refined lead produced at Trail Operations.
More recently, Teck has developed, tested and implemented a new recycling process to reclaim metals contained in electronic waste, often called “urban ore”, thereby keeping this material out of landfills and producing valuable metals that do not have to be mined. This process offers a solution to the critical societal and environmental problem of the increasing volume of electronic waste, such as computers and televisions, discarded into landfills. The recycling of end-of-life electronics began in 2006 and Trail Operations currently recycles e-waste from BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The e-waste recycling process handles a large volume of CRT glass (from computer and television monitors), responsibly recovering the contained lead back into a metal form through the lead smelter – a modern, world-class process with efficient lead recoveries and equipped with stringent environmental controls. While some recycling programs involve reforming CRT glass into new CRT equipment in processes overseas, that market is shrinking and, soon, returning CRT glass back to lead metal will be the only responsible option.
A newer recycling initiative is zinc alkaline batteries. Everyone has AA, AAA, and D cell batteries that no longer work rattling around in the junk drawer or in the garage. These batteries are usually disposed of in landfills. Teck can now recycle these batteries through their processes, resulting in pure zinc and other products.
In conjunction with the BC Ministry of Environment, they are also conducting tests for recycling fluorescent light bulbs. Teck has the technology and knowledge to recycle fluorescent lighting in a way that recovers the contained mercury. This both prevents the mercury in light bulbs from contaminating the environment and returns it to a commodity state.
It is very heartening to see that our major economic driver is also striving to be part of the solution to reduce post consumer waste going to landfills.
Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.