E-Waste Recycling in Toronto

E Waste Recycling In Toronto


Everything You Need to Know about E-Waste Recycling in Toronto


E-waste, short for electronic waste, involves discarded electronic devices and gadgets. As technology evolves rapidly, the lifespan of these devices shortens, leading to an increase in e-waste. 

Toronto, being one of Canada’s largest cities, generates a significant amount of e-waste annually. According to recent data, the city produces thousands of tons of e-waste yearly, reflecting the high consumption and turnover of electronic devices among residents and businesses. This volume of e-waste presents both a challenge and an opportunity for effective waste management and recycling initiatives.

The City of Toronto has implemented several initiatives to tackle e-waste, including “Community Environment Days” for residents to safely dispose of and recycle e-waste and a network of Drop-off Depots and Transfer Stations. Check out the schedule here: https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/recycling-organics-garbage/community-environment-days/.

Additionally, private companies and non-profit organizations like the Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA) and Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) offer convenient drop-off locations and collection services. They often partner with retailers to facilitate take-back programs that facilitate easier recycling when consumers purchase new electronics.

The Recycling Process: From Collection to Processing

Stage 1: Collection and Sorting

The first step in e-waste recycling is collection. Toronto has designated drop-off points at recycling centers and transfer stations, frequent collection events, and take-back programs offered by many electronics retailers. Once collected, e-waste is transported to recycling facilities, where it undergoes initial sorting based on type, size, and condition, which determines the subsequent steps in the recycling process.

Stage 2: Dismantling

After sorting, skilled workers or automated systems disassemble electronic devices into their components. This stage of e-waste recycling involves removing batteries, circuit boards, screens, and other valuable or hazardous parts to ensure safe handling and prevent environmental contamination. The dismantling process isolates valuable materials like gold, silver, copper, and rare earth metals for further processing and identifies reusable components that can be refurbished and resold.

Stage 3: Shredding and Separation

Once dismantled, the e-waste is fed into shredders that break it down into smaller pieces, facilitating the separation of different materials. The resulting fragments undergo various separation techniques: magnetic separation uses powerful magnets to extract ferrous metals, and eddy current separation extracts non-ferrous metals like aluminum and copper through induced electric currents. Optical sorting machines identify and separate plastics by type and color, and density separation uses water or air currents to distinguish heavier metals from lighter plastics.

Stage 4: Chemical Processing

Chemical processing is necessary to recover valuable materials for specific components. For example, circuit boards undergo chemical treatments to extract precious metals like gold, silver, and palladium. This involves using acids and other chemicals to dissolve the metals, which are then precipitated and refined to achieve high purity levels.

Stage 5: Refining

The separated and recovered materials are further purified to meet industry standards. Metals are smelted and refined to remove impurities, producing high-quality raw materials that can be reintroduced into manufacturing. Plastics are cleaned and pelletized, ready to produce new plastic products.

End Products: What Happens to Recycled Materials


Recycling e-waste mitigates the negative environmental impact of electronic waste and recovers valuable materials that can be used in various industries. You can also visit this site for helpful insight into the controversies behind plastic recycling.

  • Metals

Metals constitute a significant portion of e-waste, and their recovery is a primary goal of the recycling process. Extracted metals include gold and silver from circuit boards and connectors, refined and sold to manufacturers of electronics and jewelry; copper, reused as electrical cables, plumbing materials, and other products; aluminum, melted and reformed into automotive parts, construction materials, and consumer goods; and steel and iron from casings and structural components, smelted and used to manufacture appliances, building materials, and other products.

  • Plastics

Plastics recovered from e-waste undergo cleaning and processing to remove contaminants. Once purified, they are melted and formed into pellets, which serve as raw materials for producing new plastic items. Recycled plastics are reused for either the same or different purposes, including but not limited to new electronic housings and components, creating packaging materials, producing interior and exterior components for vehicles, and developing products like plastic lumber and insulation.

  • Glass

Glass from e-waste, particularly screens and monitors, is crushed and processed to remove hazardous coatings or materials. The cleaned glass is then melted and reformed into new glass products. Recycled glass is commonly used to manufacture display screens for televisions, computers, and other devices, create building materials like glass tiles or fiberglass insulation, and produce fibers for telecommunications and data transmission.

  • Hazardous Materials

E-waste contains hazardous materials like lead, mercury, and cadmium, which must be handled properly to prevent environmental contamination and health risks. These materials undergo specialized recycling processes: lead from CRTs and batteries is refined for new batteries and radiation shielding; mercury from switches, relays, and lamps is purified for use in new lighting and industrial products; cadmium from rechargeable batteries is recovered for new batteries and corrosion-resistant coatings.

  • Rare Earth Elements

Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential components in many modern electronic devices, including smartphones, electric vehicles, and wind turbines. Recovering REEs from e-waste is complex but highly beneficial due to their scarcity and importance in advanced technologies. Recycled REEs are refined and reused for electronics and renewable energy, such as wind turbines and eclectic vehicle motors, as well as for advanced materials used in defense and aerospace.