Get a new flat-screen TV for Christmas and wondering what to do with the old console? Finally replacing that turntable with an MP3 player? Just upgrading your Mac? Whatever it is, you'd better check your state's books before heading to the landfill.
As the new year begins,
"I think it's a good idea," said Kevin Wilkinson, a
The Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2007 that the
In states without recycling laws, consumers like Wilkinson are left to safely dispose of old equipment on their own, generally by paying a few dollars per item at a computer store or by going to big-box retailers that sponsor programs to take old items.
States' laws vary in strictness.
It takes effect in two stages: A long list of electronic devices was banned from landfills as of Jan. 1, and a much shorter list will be covered by a recycling program free to consumers and paid for by manufacturers to be set up by July 1.
Most states ask electronics makers to pay for recycling programs _ both to make sure they are run properly and to remove the temptation for consumers to avoid added costs by dumping illegally.
As new state laws have been passed, they've covered a longer list of electronics over time, generally starting out with computer monitors and televisions and later extending to accessories. A
"The Vermont law is taking advantage of lessons learned in other states," said Scott Cassel, executive director of the Boston-based Product Stewardship Institute, which a decade ago began promoting laws requiring electronics makers to help pay to recycle their own products.
For businesses, knowing they'll be responsible for taking care of their products at the end of their useful lives means "now they have an incentive to have these products contain fewer hazardous materials and be recycled more easily," said Clare Inness, marketing coordinator for Vermont's Chittenden Solid Waste District.
Walter Alcorn of the Consumer Electronics Association said industry supports recycling. The main worry for manufacturers is a lack of uniformity among state laws, he said.
"There is quite a patchwork of varying state mandates on this issue," said Alcorn, the association's vice president for environmental affairs. "It makes compliance a challenge. It drains efficiency from the overall system."
Environmentalists have noted in recent years that much of the
Robin Ingenthron, CEO of Good Point Recycling in Middlebury, said that circuit boards usually go to smelters in Europe, where metals are extracted, and that cathode ray tube glass often goes to developing countries like
Wilkinson, who usually paid $5 to $10 per item to recycle old equipment at a local computer shop, said he wasn't likely to get rid of his piled-up gear all at once.
"I'm a pack rat. I have a hard time throwing stuff away," he said. After learning that the free computer recycling program doesn't begin until July, he added: "Oh, good, now I have a perfect excuse."