Thursday, January 20, 2011

Throw the stuff out. Yes, you have settled into programming and using all the new electronic junk you bought or received over the holidays, but what do you do with the pile of electronic junk you don’t want any more. Yes, just toss it. Well, not so fast. Now there are 27 states that are enacting laws with recycling rules to protect the environment. So, before you head out to your landfill, check out your local recycling laws.
According to the Electronics Take-Back Coalition, a San Francisco based group that monitors the fate of “e-waste” as the new year begins, Vermont is joining New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina in instituting laws banning electronic waste from landfills. The amount of heavy metals in the circuit boards is not good for the natural environment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the United States alone generates about 3 million tons a year of e-waste which can contain lead, mercury, cadmium and other potentially harmful chemicals. If those toxins leach from landfills into the environment, risks to human health can include cancer and nervous system damage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In recent years, the EPA estimates that about 15% of this kind of waste is recovered. In states without recycling laws, yes incredibly there are still some places that do not care how you dispose of these items, consumers are left to safely dispose of old equipment on their own. Most concerned have been paying a few dollars per item at a computer store or by going to big-box retailers that sponsor programs to take old items.
Each state has different sets of rules, for example, Vermont who just started their recycling program bans the disposal of e-waste in landfills and requires that it be separated from the household trash. Most states now ask electronics makers to pay for recycling programs. People would be motivated to bring in their old stuff if the consumer would be rewarded for their effort. Some offer a lower price on a new item if you return a old.
As new state laws have been passed, they’ve covered a longer list of electronics over time, generally starting out with computer monitors and televisions and later extending to accessories. A Maryland law said it did not cover peripherals like a mouse, printer or keyboard yet Vermont’s law covers them. We should have a national policy. Many people have offices and homes in many states; our landfills have the same problems with wastes in all states. Walter Alcorn of the Consumer Electronics Association said the industry supports recycling. Tell your congress person to do some work and vote for uniformity among state laws and stop driving both sides of the product chain the consumers and the manufacturers crazy.

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