E-Waste on the NAFTA Political Agenda

Environmental waste is a mounting concern, yet it has attracted little attention in Canada.  It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise to find that a joint NAFTA statement from earlier this week makes specific reference to the issue.  Government representatives of Canada, the U.S, and Mexico state:

Rapid and dramatic technological advances over the years have created a huge global market for consumer electronics. These advances have also led to increased, low-cost competition and a shortened product lifespan that finds older products ending up in landfills more rapidly.

NAFTA Ministers agreed to work together to lower trade barriers to ensure that this industry has the tools and market access it needs to succeed in all three countries. Ministers also agreed to work with the trilateral Commission of Environmental Co-operation to explore ways to address the environmental impacts of the lifespan and disposal of consumer electronics.


  1. cr
    I really thing there should be serious discussions in the country about e-waste. Currently, there is a little bit of a discussion in BC.

    There should be regulations in place so that computer appliances, if they are to be sold, have a method of disposal or recycling developed and published by their manufacturers or retailers. (For example, as in BC, the accumulation and disposal could be by collectives of retailers (like the encorp company, in BC), and supported by a levy imposed on purchases. However, BC’s new law does not have mandates or regulations to ensure that devices actually be recyclable or disposable).

    As an example, my father has a Saab, and its user guide includes information on how to dispose of, or recycle nearly every part in the machine. This is because of european and swedish regulations mandating this. The same should be the case for computer equipment, if it is to be sold. It should be designed to be responsibly recyclable, and there should be processes to ensure it happens.

    To be effective, any regulations like this should be continent-wide. So it is good that mexico, the US and Canada are talking about the issue. I hope they do not shy from tough regulations to ensure devices are designed to be responsibly disposed of or recycled, because to do it properly it will be an added cost to manufacturers and result in increases in prices to e-goods, and will be fought (perhaps) by consumer-lobbies, retailers and manufacturers (they will fight the bad fight, and have strong stomachs, as for years they looked away as Indian child-slaves poisoned themselves disassembling e-waste, rather than come together voluntarily and ask consumers to pay a bit more so that the stuff be properly designed and recycled).

  2. Funny
    Considering that Canada is already a member of the Basel convention prohibiting the export of toxic wastes to third world nations and that despite this Department of Defense computers, among other e-waste deposits, have been found in dumps in China, I find this to be a great PR stunt. (see

    Instead of negotiating a new agreement they should save on the legal fees and spend that money on concrete national plans. Currently in Ottawa if you want to recycle e-waste you have to pay for it. Legislation could mandate companies to subsidize e-waste recyclers and supply dumps for consumers.