DEEP: 2007 - Connecticut Passes Electronics Recycling Law

Top 40
Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years

Connecticut Passes Electronics Recycling Law
(2007)

Background
Do you have an old computer, monitor, printer or television in your home that you donít use? If so, youíre not alone. A 2008 DEP survey of Connecticut residents indicated that 72% of us have one of these devices in our home gathering dust. The technology for televisions and computers is changing so rapidly that we are purchasing electronic devices just to keep with the latest and greatest. High speed computers, flat screen monitors, high definition televisions and laser printers are just some of the examples of the recent advances in technology. Just around the corner is 3-D television, tablet computers and E-readers.

But what should we do with all the unwanted electronic devices? The EPA estimates that in the USA, over 163,000 televisions and computers become obsolete every day. In Connecticut there have been recycling collection events since 1998. These collection days have brought in as much as 50 tons of "e-waste" in a single day. Some municipalities have established permanent collection sites for e-waste at their municipal transfer stations.

The problem is that recycling electronics cost money. Throwing computers and televisions in the garbage costs about $70 per ton. Recycling these same devices costs $300 - $400 per ton. The economics strongly favor disposal over recycling. Recycling is expensive because of the labor needed to dismantle the devices into marketable components. Some towns will recover this cost by charging the residents to bring in a television or computer. But it is clear that charging the residents results in fewer electronics getting recycled.

So what is the solution? Recycling is clearly the better option for the environment. Connecticutís waste disposal facilities are operating at full capacity and we need to recycle more of all wastes. If we continue to generate more waste and donít increase our recycling, then we will be forced to send some of our garbage out of state at great expense. In order to recycle more electronics, we needed to address the economics.

In 2007, Connecticut joined a handful of other states to develop an innovative approach to recycling e-waste referred to as "product stewardship" or "producer responsibility". Under a product stewardship approach, the manufacturer finances the recycling of their product at the end of its useful life. With respect to Connecticut, this means residents will be able to drop off old televisions, printers, computers and monitors at no charge at a convenient location. The manufacturer will reimburse approved recyclers for the recycling of ewaste generated by Connecticut residents.

Once given the financial responsibility to manage the ewaste, manufacturers are finding ways to lower the cost through a number of strategies including partnering with recyclers, creating economies of scale, and designing their products to make them easier to recycle. Manufacturers, unlike government, has the means to lower the cost of recovering electronics.

The ewaste law represents a new direction for managing our solid waste on a larger scale. The product stewardship approach to waste management can be applied to a large number of other problem wastes. Several states have product stewardship laws for mercury thermostats, car switches, and paint. Connecticut has adopted a product stewardship approach in our stateís solid waste management plan adopted in 2006.

 
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What You Can Do

  • Buy energy efficient computers and televisions
  • Contact your town for locations for disposing of ewaste once the law takes effect in late summer 2010
  • Donate unwanted, working computers and televisions