Recycle Electronics – There’s a Right Way and Wrong Way

There’s a right way and a wrong way to recycle electronics.

reBOOT Canada has been focused on computers, connections, and community and has been managing retired IT assets responsibly since 1995.

reBOOT Canada refurbishes, repairs and redeploys over 1,000 computers every year. We also repurpose hundreds, if not thousands, of computer accessories, such as monitors, keyboards, cables, speakers and routers to support our reSTARTreSOURCEreLAY, and Aboriginal Youth Tool Kit initiatives. This is only possible because we received over 13,000 individual electronic items every year – which is great! – but it does mean that we have to use some common (maybe not so common!) sense around which electronics get fixed and which ones get diverted to responsible recycling channels.

Recycling electronics in Ontario in particular, but generally in Canada, has come a long way in terms of growth of domestic capacity in the sector and overall volumes. Since the Ontario Electronic Stewardship was established in 2007, over 67 million items have been diverted from landfill to certified recyclers right here in Ontario.

The process of recycling electronics is pretty straightforward, and it looks a lot like manufacturing electronics, except completely backwards:

  1. ITAD (Information Technology Asset Disposition) and metal scrapping companies collect electronics from businesses and consumers through procurement channels, community drop off days and partnerships with great organizations like reBOOT Canada!
  2. Devices are aggregated at a facility where they’re categorized by the kind of materials that will be extracted form the device: ie, printers are mostly plastic, computers have some precious non-ferrous metals, cell phones and batteries have other recoverable chemicals and compounds that can be isolated and remarketed to the supply chain,
  3. Depending on the device, parts and materials are safely dismantled by hand and further streamed until ready for remarketing back into the supply chain or they are efficiently crushed into uniform sized chips, about 1.5 cm, where the metals and plastics can be further separated.

reBOOT Canada feeds into this process through formal partnerships with companies like Quantum Lifecycle Partners, with a presence across the country,  they cover every step of the IT disposition process, from data destruction to refurbishment, resale and recycling.

Part of our recycle electronics method is to be really good at determining what donations can be fixed and redeployed within a reasonable amount of time and cost, and what cannot be.

Like any organization, except maybe Amazon, reBOOT Canada has limited resources, meaning we need to utilize what we have in the most efficient manner possible, so we make decisions about estimating cost and timing to fix all the time, and we try to teach people how to make those calls as well.

Sometimes it’s really easy: some donations are obviously broken beyond repair, no longer have accessible operating systems or minimum support, or are designed for such a specific application where the need no longer exists (ie, Beta video players always available! Happy birthday – I got you a Sony discman!). These get  placed in a recycling electronics stream pretty quickly. When we run out of room at one of our locations in Southern Ontario, we arrange for transport through our network of certified recycling electronics service provider.

Recycling electronics can get complicated. Here’s a list of considerations:

  • Wireless routers that do not support WPA2 encryption (these are no longer secure to use)
  • Wireless routers that do not support the “N” standard of transmission (we consider anything older than that to be inadequate with Internet speeds of today)
  • Hard drives below a certain size
  • Hard drives that are not SATA compliant
  • Floppy disk drives
  • Laptop computers with Pentium M or older processors
  • Computers that can’t support Windows 10

That said, we can help you with computer disposal (Toronto) – and we welcome all donations of all computer-related electronics. If you’re a business with 10 or more working computers, and you’re within the GTA we can arrange for free pick up*: fill in the form at to get the process started. If you’re just cleaning out your closet, stop by our Brick Works location in Toronto or downtown Peterborough.

In any event, don’t just throw them out – recycle electronics! It will help the earth and our friends and neighbours across the country!

reBOOT Canada Brick Works, Toronto