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E-waste legislation passes; EPF takes a hit

Measures included in budget extenders

Discarded electronic devices will now be collected and recycled by manufacturers after the Legislature recently passed budget extender bills containing measures that will require manufacturers to set up a recycling program. Photo by AP Photo.
June 07, 2010
Environmentalists were elated after the Legislature recently passed budget extender bills with measures requiring manufacturers to collect and recycle electronic devices from consumers.

The bills mandate manufacturers meet specific performance standards by collecting 3 pounds of e-waste per capita in 2011, 4 pounds per capita in 2012 and five pounds per capita in 2013. After 2013, new performance standards are expected to be set based on the actual amount of e-waste collected during previous years.

Passing the emergency extender bills did come with a cost, however, as the Environmental Protection Fund suffered an $88 million reduction from 2009-2010 levels. The funding will be used to keep state parks open this fiscal year.

Still, after three years of the e-waste bill passing in the Assembly, Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Robert Sweeney, D- Lindenhurst, said the passage of this program is "fairly significant," and added this program will make New York state a leader in electronic waste recycling.

"This has been legislation we've passed for years," the assemblyman said. "We haven't passed it in the other house."

Sweeney said toxic electronics are one of the more rapidly growing components of the municipal waste stream. He praised Apple Inc. and Hewlett Packard for moving forward with creating more recyclable products and the companies' endorsement of the bill.

"We got strong support from Apple and Hewlett Packard," he said, "We would like to encourage manufacturers to consider what they are putting into their products."

Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, referred to the program as a "hard-won initiative," adding that e-waste recycling will benefit both local governments and consumers.

"We are glad to be moving forward with a plan that keeps these products from clogging landfills and contributing toxic releases from garbage incinerators while removing the burden from local governments and consumers," Thompson said in a press release.

Many electronic devices, such as televisions and computer monitors, are covered in casings that use toxic flame retardants.

Those toxic elements can be harmful to brain function, according to Bobbi Chase Wilding, organizing director for Clean New York, a group that has been advocating the passage of e-waste legislation.

"This bill was driven by garbage collectors dumping electronic waste into the same garbage as regular waste," Wilding said. "We want electronic devices to be properly recycled; the e-waste bill will do this."

Wilding said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that electronic waste contributes 40 percent of the lead contained in landfills.

Some electronic devices also contain chromium and mercury, which can be found in old televisions and computer monitors, according to Sima Anjam, program director of Environmental Advocates of New York. She said those old devices can be thrown into landfills where toxins can be released and flow into residential drinking water.

"This program will make it free for consumers to recycle these products, so you can take the products back to the manufacturer," Anjam said. "It will put the responsibility on the manufacturer and incentivize them to make better products in the future."

Anjam said that while it is unfortunate the manner in which the emergency extender bill was passed, the bill will generate $1 million this year for the EPF and $500,000 in subsequent years.

"It was an environmental priority," she said. "The environmental community is very happy to see the bill got through, it was one of the good things to come of [the emergency extender bill]."

Manufacturers will be responsible for informing the public of the new law and will be creating their own e-waste recycling programs, conducting fixed facility collection events and working with retailers on collection programs, according to Wilding.

"We have to focus on every part of the state," she said. "Manufacturers will all make some way of recycling."

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