Anyone planning to kick outdated electronics to the curb this year should know they'll probably be there long after the garbage truck leaves.
Starting on Jan. 24, the state's consumers, businesses and manufacturers will be tasked with keeping electronic waste out of landfills through the Pennsylvania's Covered Device Recycling Act. Enacted in 2010, the law prohibits consumers and businesses from throwing away televisions, desktop and laptop computers, computer monitors and accessories such as printers with normal trash. IPads, Kindles or other tablets also cannot be thrown away, but PDAs and cell phones are exempt from the law.
Devices covered by the law must now be recycled by consumers either through designated electronic recycling facilities, through the device's manufacturer or during special electronic recycling collection events.
Manufacturers, who take on the bulk of responsibility under the law, must establish plans to collect, transport and recycle covered devices, They must also submit annual reports detailing the total weight of devices sold nationally over the past two years and the total weight of devices sold in Pennsylvania over the past year to the state Department of Environmental Protection. If the weight of the number of covered devices collected for recycling is less than what is approved in the manufacturer's plan for a year they will face fines.
Manufacturers and municipalities must use recycling facilities with either a Responsible Recycling (R2) Practices Standard Certification, an e-Stewards Certification, or an internationally accredited third-party environmental management standard for the safe and responsible handling of covered devices.
Pennsylvania is one of 25 states that have implemented laws on electronic waste and its harm on the environment over the past decade, according to the Parkersburg, W.Va.-based National Center for Electronics Recycling. Lisa Kasianowitz, spokeswoman for the DEP, said the state's primary goal is to reduce the levels of lead, cadmium and mercury that are leaked into the environment from electronic waste. However, she said the state could also cash in on the collections by reusing other precious metals used for the devices.
"There are many economic benefits that go along with this plan. We can extract gold, silver, platinum and base materials like copper, iron and aluminum for reuse from these computers," she said.
Consumers looking for the legal way to discard aging laptops won't have to go very far, said Ms. Kasianowitz. Many municipalities will work with the county and trash haulers in order to establish electronics pickup days. If a municipality has yet to set up an electronic recycling program, consumers can take devices to long-standing recycling programs at local Salvation Army sites or at any Goodwill store, which will transfer the units to the Goodwill Computer Recycling Center in Lawrenceville. Best Buy also will accept electronics for recycling if consumers contact them before bringing in devices.
Annette Hostoffer of the Goodwill of Southwestern PA said the organization has been gearing up for the new law since March, when it was granted a permit by the DEP. She said the organization's program, which recycles unusable electronics parts but refurbishes some computers for resale at its ComputerWorks store, won't change but will most likely grow thanks to an increase in foot traffic. Goodwill's director of operations Bora Caliskan said the organization will take the lead in educating communities on how to set up the most effective electronic recycling programs.
"We have a wealth of computer recycling experience [and] we will continue to share that knowledge and expertise to help communities addressing the growing e-Waste problem when the new law becomes effective, giving them a way to safely dispose of old computers, televisions and other electronics for recycling or disposal," she said in a news release.
For consumers, the most important new tip might not be where to recycle e-waste, but how to remove all personal information from a device before sending it off for reuse. The National Center for Electronics Recycling notes that most electronic recyclers have policies requiring hard drives to be cleared, but suggested that consumers purchase software that allows them to wipe the drives clean on their own.
The DEP has promoted the law change throughout the year but will kick off a renewed effort this month to make sure consumers know they won't get fined for throwing away electronics, but their items won't be picked up, either.
"Of course if someone dumps illegally, they will face fines or penalties, but if they just put it with the regular trash, the trash hauler will just leave it on the curb," said Ms. Kasianowitz.
For more information, call the DEP's Recycling Hotline toll-free at 1-800-346-4242.
Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652. First Published January 1, 2013 6:15 AM