January 22, 2006
Careful with that "e-waste"
As a service to California readers, I call attention to new state regulations on disposal of household waste.
From today's San Diego Union Tribune:
Don't throw away that dead battery, old cell phone or broken digital camera. As of Feb. 9, it will be illegal to send household electronic waste-- e-waste-- to California landfills.
Batteries and consumer electronics, along with fluorescent bulbs and thermostats, contain low levels of hazardous metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium, which can contaminate soil and water. Those products and others classified by the state Department of Toxic Substance Control as "universal waste" will have to go to a recycler or household hazardous waste collection center....
Among the items listed as "universal waste" by the state Department of Toxic Substance Control:
- AA, AAA, C and D batteries
- Cell phones, telephones, radios and microwave ovens
- Greeting cards that play music
- Sneakers with flashing lights in their soles
- Fluorescent light tubes and bulbs
- Mercury thermometers
Information statewide on what to do with these items is available at Earth 911. I've used the Miramar facility here in San Diego and it's really very easy and convenient-- you call to set up an appointment and then just bring your e-stuff to them at the time you've set up.
A more pro-active approach is being implemented in Maine:
A first-in-the-nation law went into effect Wednesday in Maine, requiring makers of televisions and computer monitors to pick up the tab to recycle and safely dispose of their products once they are discarded. Under the law, which mirrors the approach taken in Europe and Japan, manufacturers must shoulder the cost of sending electronics to recycling centers where toxic materials such as lead and mercury are removed.
And as I changed the toner cartridge on my printer last week, I was grateful to Hewlett-Packard for the great program that company has set up.
Posted by James Hamilton at January 22, 2006 06:35 PMdigg this | reddit
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Careful with that "e-waste":
» Electronics Recycling. from Tim Worstall
I was rather saddened by this post by James Hamilton over at Econbrowser. I expected a Professor of Economics to dig a little deeper into the subject. Leave aside the electronics recycling in Maine, which is following the absurd EU [Read More]
Tracked on January 23, 2006 06:20 AM
Now if we can just get the same kind of law for newspapers, we could significantly reduce input to the landfill and increase paper recycling at the same time. Why not make the newspaper company responsible for collecting the same amount of used paper each week as they use to deliver the news?
Posted by: Keith at January 23, 2006 09:01 AM
Recycling electronic waste is a good thing, but before you go praising HP too much, keep in mind that most of their laser printer profits come from toner cartridges, giving them a strong incentive to make sure empty ones don't end up in the hands of refurbishers.
Posted by: Jake at January 23, 2006 09:21 AM
With nearly everyone in California owning a computer or other electronic gadget(s) I hope they start a pick-up service rather than requiring everyone to drive to a drop-off point. It would be a lot easier to have a regular pick-up, like with recycling. It could be done once a month or once a quarter, whatever works but doesn't force the trucks to return empty or under-filled.
Posted by: jim miller at January 23, 2006 11:05 AM
Oh, yeah, sure, that will work. I'm really going to bother to try and collect dead batteries to recycle? Not unless you give me a way to do it - I hope they enjoy them in the recycling bins, where they will probably just toss them anyway...
Posted by: donna at January 23, 2006 04:43 PM
I can't believe an economist is supporting mandated recycling. Used products should be recycled when it is economically profitable to do so. When total costs are included, most (mandated) recycling is a massive waste of social resources. I know part of the incentive is environmental but the environmental justification is weak. Significant environmental (and direct costs) are involved in the process of storing these products (with inevitable breakage and spillage) and transporting them to often remote collection centers. Much better to chuck them in the trash, and have them transported and disposed of very economically at a secure landfill. The requirements for sanitary landfills (i.e., garbage dumps) are quite rigorous. Essentially, all deposited wastes will remain for eternity (or the economic equivalent thereof) in a lined, capped, and monitored environment. Very little degradation, and no transport of hazardous materials, takes place in these new landfills. For this reason, when they are "mined" by anthropologists what they find is like new (more or less). The risk is very limited, which is the intend of extensive federal regulations for these sites. The mandated recycling programs are supported by folks who want to feel environmentally righteous as they load up their SUVs to drive 20 miles to the recycling center.
Posted by: wastrel at January 23, 2006 06:45 PM
I also like a nice secure landfill. Those newspapers Keith talks about help preserve it, and provide valuable carbon sequestration against global warming. Really all the carbon in a landfill is sequestered. If it is secure ...
Out on the west coast we've had a lot of news of leaky landfills, and some groundwater contamination as a result.
I suspect that we are anti-landfill (as a society) now because those stories have shaped our view. And when a builder says "my landfill is safe" remember "that's what the last guy said."
IMO it boils down to a trust issue.
Posted by: odograph at January 24, 2006 06:52 AM
I can't believe you mentioned the recycling program without mentioning the pre-paid "fees" that run it. You pay an upfront tax on electronics when you buy them. This is like the insane bottle deposit scheme. Before the mandatory deposit on bottles and cans we got 90 cents a pound for recycled aluminum. After paying $1.40 per pound in "deposits" the "refund" went to 65 cents. California is about one thing; taxes. Californi taxes are about one thing; socializing behavior.
Posted by: Robert Cote at January 24, 2006 08:41 AM
Just a note on the Japanese method: Unless they've changed the system recently in Japan when you want to get rid of a TV or refrigerator or other large electrical item you have to pay a fee. I think it was something like forty dollars to dispose of a TV. Obviously this is only going to be practical if the vast majority of people prefer paying the fee to dumping their old TV in someone's rice field. It also creates problems for poor people who have the items that are the most likely to break down while having the least spare money to dispose of them. If you ever move to Japan and friendly expatriates offer to "give" you all sorts of stuff to help furnish your new apartment, beware!
Posted by: Ronald Brak at January 26, 2006 05:09 PM
Wake-up call to James Hamilton & Maine Legislature.
One issue with the recently passed Maine legislation.
"Concientious Manufactures", e.g. HP et al will follow the law.
Unscrupulous Manufactures will not.
Unless I am missing something, this law punishes good actors (Manufactures), and will benefit bad actors.
This is a serious problem.
Posted by: Les Poltrack at January 28, 2006 12:02 AM
As a Mainer, I will tell you that the legistlature is dead serious about the new recycling law, mostly because of money. It is already very difficult to get rid of many items in Maine - many communities charge a dollar a bag for garbage pickup in addition to the municipal fees, and everything has to fit in the bag. Try and get rid of a metal mop handle, stryofoam packing peanuts, waste wood, etc. Illegal dumping is actively tracked and heavy fines are imposed on violators, and the EPA is licking their chops auditing business for any kind of pollution, and handing out six figure fines. And forget about the midnight dumpster runs, businesses lock them...
a typical computer uses 2000 pounds of raw materials and generates 139 pounds of hazardous waste, hucking them after a few years just is not going to continue. The era of American waste is over.
Posted by: peakoiliscoming at January 29, 2006 07:19 PM
People dont realize there is more lead in a car battery then a house full of electronics, this whole scheme is hardly worth it.
Posted by: Ken at October 3, 2006 05:42 AM