New York Toughens Up on Electronics Manufacturers with New e-Waste Law

macro circuit board photo

Photo via Mark, Vicki, Ellaura and Mason via Flickr CC

New York City has had its share of difficulty in regards to setting strict regulations for e-waste recycling. When they set up a regulation requiring manufacturers to provide door-to-door pickup of electronics, manufacturers bit back with a lawsuit. But now, the city has some degree of support from the state of New York, which just implemented a law toughening up manufacturers' obligations for e-waste recycling. New York earns the title of the 23rd US state to pass an e-waste law, and it's even tougher than New York City's. Starting April 11, 2011, manufacturers will be required to offer free programs for customers dropping off old electronics for responsible recycling or reuse. Additionally, manufacturers won't be allowed to dump electronics in landfills. Happily, that no-dump regulation will also extend to consumers starting January 2015. Manufacturers are likely to coordinate and set up collection locations where consumers can bring all their goods, rather than individual collection points for each company.

But what makes New York's law really stand out is that the state is requiring each company recycle or reuse a certain amount of e-waste by weight each year according to their market share in the state, which is based on a three-year average of their sales.

An unfortunate loophole, however, is that those who collect more than required can save, trade or sell "recycling credits" while those who don't collect their share will face fines. So essentially, only a particular amount of e-waste really ever has to be collected, unless the state ups the percentage each manufacturer is required to collect (like, say, 100%).

The EPA estimates that nearly 15 lbs of e-waste per person was being junked in 2007, and our recycling rate hovers at an embarrassing 13 percent average nationally. According to Sci-Tech Today, junked electronics represent one of the nation's fastest-growing waste streams.

Still, Kate Sinding, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, calls New York's bill "the most progressive, best researched e-waste bill in the country." The law will chip away at those 15 lbs per person, with the collection requirements starting at three pounds per capita in year one, rising to four in year two and five and year three. After that, the standard will be decided based upon what was collected the prior year.

"This approach not only gets these dangerous products out of our landfills and incinerators where they can contaminate water and air, it also removes the burden of handling this fastest-growing part of the waste stream from municipalities and taxpayers. Equally importantly, by shifting the costs of end-of-life waste management to the manufacturers, it encourages them to design products in the first instance that are easier - and hence cheaper - to recycle in the first place. Ultimately, this should result in products that have fewer toxic components, and more reusable and recyclable components, requiring less use of virgin materials," says Sinding.

And, the state law trumps the New York City law that faced so much contention from manufacturers, and the lawsuit which stemmed from it is now moot.

The law covers consumer electronics, but not appliances.

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More on E-Waste Collection Drama
Advocates for Electronics Producer Responsibility Speak Out Against NYC e-Waste Lawsuit
Who Is Gonna Pay For My e-Waste?? Not Me!
US Government Officials Ask Electronics Industry to Take Back NYC Law Suit, and Take Back Gadgets

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