June 30, 2009
A Green Way to Dump Low-Tech Electronics
By LESLIE KAUFMAN
This month, Edward Reilly, 35, finally let go of the television he had owned since his college days.
Although the Mitsubishi set was technologically outdated, it had sat for years in Mr. Reilly’s home in Portland, Me., because he did not know what else to do with it, given the environmental hazards involved in discarding it.
“It’s pretty well known that if it gets into the landfill, it gets into the groundwater,” he said. “Its chemicals pollute.”
But the day after the nationwide conversion to digital television signals took effect on June 12, Mr. Reilly decided to take advantage of a new wave of laws in Maine and elsewhere that require television and computer manufacturers to recycle their products free of charge. He dropped off his television at an electronic waste collection site near his home and, he said, immediately gained “peace of mind.”
Over the course of that day, 700 other Portland residents did the same.
Since 2004, 18 states and New York City have approved laws that make manufacturers responsible for recycling electronics, and similar statutes were introduced in 13 other states this year. The laws are intended to prevent a torrent of toxic and outdated electronic equipment — television sets, computers, monitors, printers, fax machines — from ending up in landfills where they can leach chemicals into groundwater and potentially pose a danger to public health.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 99.1 million televisions sit unused in closets and basements across the country. Consumer response to recycling has been enormous in states where the laws have taken effect. Collection points in Washington State, for example, have been swamped by people like Babs Smith, 55, who recently drove to RE-PC, a designated electronics collection and repurposing center on the southern edge of Seattle.
Ms. Smith’s Subaru Outback was stuffed with three aged computer towers that had languished in her basement after being gutted by her teenage sons, who removed choice bits to build their own souped-up computers. “It’s what geeks do,” she said.
Since January, Washington State residents and small businesses have been allowed to drop off their televisions, computers and computer monitors free of charge to one of 200 collection points around the state. They have responded by dumping more than 15 million pounds of electronic waste, according to state collection data. If disposal continues at this rate, it will amount to more than five pounds for every man, woman and child per year.
Use of the drop-off points was so overwhelming at first that the Washington Materials Management and Financing Authority, which oversees the program, urged consumers to consider holding off until spring.
Still, states that pioneered the electronic recycling laws report that consumer participation remains strong over time. Maine, which was one of the first to approve such a law, in 2004, says it collected nearly four pounds of waste per person last year.
Read the rest at the source.