Beginning Jan. 24, 2013, Pennsylvania citizens will no longer be able to put old computers and televisions out with the trash.
But it won't be a major adjustment for most people, since manufacturers are required by law to accept such devices and some other materials. Nonprofit organizations also regularly collect items, but they note that there are gaps in the legislation designed to protect the environment and recycle metals, plastics and other waste.
The Covered Device Recycling Act, passed in November 2010, includes a disposal ban that prohibits landfills from accepting desktop and laptop computers, their components, and televisions after January 2013. As a result, such devices will no longer be eligible for pickup by municipal waste services.
The ban takes effect a year after the act's first section, which requires manufacturers to organize, conduct and cover expenses for recycling within the state.
As new electronics constantly hit the market, rendering older versions obsolete, the amount of waste has grown dramatically.
"The establishment of an enhanced network of collection sites by the manufacturers should ensure that electronics recycling is more accessible to the general public, especially in light of the upcoming disposal ban," said Lisa Kasianowitz, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The Covered Device Act was an attempt to both reduce the amount of waste reaching landfills and to keep harmful materials found inside the devices, such as lead, cadmium and mercury, from contaminating the environment.
Non-flat screen computer monitors contain 4 to 7 pounds of lead in their cathode ray tube, while televisions, depending on their size, can contain even more, Ms. Kasianowitz said.
The reuse of electronic parts will also increase as the law goes into effect. Working parts that had gone unused in landfills can now be recovered at recycling facilities and used in new electronic devices.
Ms. Kasianowitz said electronics manufacturers have been "extremely cooperative in working with the Department of Environmental Protection." Manufacturers currently provide 47 collection sites in Allegheny County, many of which are at retail locations. In addition to TVs and computer-related waste, some sites accept other devices not addressed in the legislation. A complete list of collection sites, hours and what is accepted can be found at www.dep.state.pa.us.
Some people, however, believe that more regulation is needed to make sure that electronics and other products containing harmful substances are properly treated.
"The CDRA is definitely a step in the right direction," said David Mazza, western regional director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council. "However, it does not currently cover things like cell phones, CD/DVD players, and many other consumer electronics that not only may contain some of the same potentially harmful materials as the covered devices, but also valuable, recoverable resources such as plastics, gold and silver."
The Pennsylvania Resources Council holds regular collections for small appliances, cell phones, ink and toner cartridges, scanners, and many other types of e-waste not included in the Covered Devices Recycling Act. Most items are accepted free of charge, with the exception of batteries and fluorescent tubes.
E-waste collections are scheduled at the Mall at Robinson and Pittsburgh Mills on June 23 and Sept. 29, respectively. Each runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine. The PRC has collected 100,000 pounds of e-waste so far this year, Mr. Mazza said. For more details on the collections and what is accepted, go to www.prc.org.
Also detrimental to the environment but not covered by a statewide disposal ban are household hazardous wastes. The term can be applied to products ranging from oil-based paints to herbicides, and are commonly identified by warning labels containing words such as "poison" or "flammable."
Three million pounds of household hazardous waste has been collected by the PRC since 2003. Approximately 500,000 pounds of the material collected is considered seriously dangerous chemicals, Mr. Mazza said. At these events, the PRC charges $2 per gallon in an attempt to recoup some of the cost of disposal or reuse. No legislation requires manufacturers of these products to subsidize the cost of such events, Mr. Mazza said.
"PRC charges a fee to participants ... that when combined with corporate sponsorship, grant funding and municipal support, helps cover the cost of proper disposal and creates a sustainable collection system," Mr. Mazza said.
"The participant fees charged make up less than 20 percent of the overall cost of the collections."
Upcoming household waste collections will take place at the Washington Mall July 14, South Park Wave Pool Sept. 15 and Bradys Run Park recycling center Oct. 13. All events run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Rob Wennemer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-1723. First Published June 16, 2012 12:00 AM