Do you have some old electronics you’d like to get rid of, but don’t know how? Join the crowd. But that doesn’t mean you have to store them in a closet or the garage. Several states now have e-waste laws that allow free recycling of electronics such as TVs, computers, monitors and other gear.
The only problem is, the laws vary widely by state. According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, 16 states and New York City have enacted e-cycling laws. They include California, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. In addition, Illinois’ governor is about to sign that state’s e-cycling bill into law, and several more states have legislation pending.
The laws generally ban electronics manufacturers from selling their products in those states unless they participate in e-cycling programs.
California, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota already have active e-cycling laws, with Texas due to start Sept. 1. Programs in Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington will start Jan 1, 2009; Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri and New York City follow in July 2009; and Hawaii in 2010.
Not all states include TV recycling in their laws. Only 11 of the 16 state laws so far cover TVs, according to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. So far, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and Hawaii don’t include televisions in their laws.
Who pays for the recycling is another matter. All but one of the states to enact e-cycling laws have programs funded by the product manufacturers. These are also called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs. In these programs, municipalities or approved recyclers may collect the e-waste, and the manufacturers are billed according to the state’s law. Collection details vary by state.
The alternative, know as an Advanced Recycling Fee (ARF), charges the consumer a recycling fee at the time of a product’s purchase. Thus far this is used only in California, but ARF bills are still on the table in Pennsylvania and South Carolina, the latter of which is also considering a producer-responsibility bill. California may also switch to a producer-responsibility program.
Other bills that put the responsibility of recycling on electronics manufacturers are on the docket in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Some states also have bans on discarding TVs and other electronics in the trash.
Clearly, the trend in state laws is toward free e-cycling take-back programs funded by electronics manufacturers—and not the consumer-fee approach taken in California. An Electronics Manufacturers’ Coalition for Responsible Recycling (EMCRR), led by Sharp, Panasonic, and Philips, which has lobbied state legislatures to pass laws requiring consumers to pay for e-waste recycling, was recently dissolved. Panasonic and Sharp also teamed up with Toshiba to form the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company (MRM) to manage collection and recycling sites throughout the United States.
Barbara Kyle, the national coordinator for the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, says the best e-cycling programs have specific goals, like the one in Minnesota that has encouraged a large amount of electronics recycling. “One of the big issues around legislation is whether there are drivers in the bills that get the manufacturers to do this,” Kyle says. The MRM joint venture between Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba has been instrumental in collecting e-waste in Minnesota, for example.
In addition, LG recently joined Sony in offering a free nationwide recycling program. LG plans to have at least one drop-off site in each state by September of this year.
You can get more details about your state’s e-cycling laws here.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates