Electronic Recycling Becomes Law In California
Two new electronic waste recycling laws took effect in California in July. The laws require retailers to take back rechargeable batteries and cell phones so that they can be recycled when they become obsolete.
These two new laws represent the first time that California retailers will be required to share in the responsibility for collection and recycling of a problem product they sell.
“California owes a great debt to Assemblymember [Fran] Pavley, who authored both of these bills and has been at the forefront of our efforts to help Californians deal with toxic electronic waste products,” said Mark Murray, executive director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste (CAW), which sponsored both bills.
“Three years ago, CAW helped enact the nation’s first e-waste recycling law, which is already working to reduce and recycle toxic computer and TV screens, and end illegal dumping – both in California landfills and in the developing world. This year, thanks to Assemblymember Pavley, we have created a take-back program for all rechargeable batteries and cell phones.”
Still, Murray observed, existing California e-waste recycling policies address just a fraction of the growing problem.
In February, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) ruled that all electronic waste is toxic and cannot be discarded in landfills. The policy effects the more than 515,000 tons of toxic electronics that have been landfilled annually in California.
“While this is a critically important step, state policy makers have thus far failed to provide California consumers and the environment with the necessary opportunities and incentives to recycle hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic consumer electronics that become obsolete every year,”
Murray is now working to persuade the public and the industry to recycle consumer electronics. “E-waste is recyclable,” he said. “Most consumer electronics contain valuable materials like copper, gold and zinc, which can and should be recycled.”
“Increasing the recycling rate of all electronic devices is not only imperative for protecting public health, but also for conserving natural resources. The challenge for California and the rest of the planet is educating consumers, developing a convenient infrastructure and covering the costs.”
“But there is still important work to be done, most critically our efforts to convince manufacturers to cease the use of toxic materials in their electronic products,” Murray concluded.
The California Waste Management Board issued figures showing that in 2004 the California waste stream included 515,374 tons of electronics waste of all types.
There were 226,769 tons of televisions, computer monitors and other items with cathode ray tubes.
There were 119,917 tons of computer-related electronics such as keyboards, laptops, mice, disk drives, and printers.
And there were 93,273 tons of other small consumer electronics such as PDAs, cell phones, camcorders, and digital cameras in the state’s waste stream.
In addition, there were 41,394 tons of larger, non-portable electronics such as microwaves, stereos, VCRs, and DVD players.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.