Computers and other electronic devices have become a necessary part of every day life in the United States. But if you’ve gotten blue screen of death or lost your entire music collection, you know they don’t last forever. Trashing a big, old computer isn’t as easy as putting it out on the curb or listing it in the “free” section of Craigslist. That’s why many state governments have stepped in to handle the regulation of residents’ e-waste, while other states are still figuring it out.
For Connecticut, the answer came in the form of a statewide electronic-recycling law similar to Maine’s, according to Tom Metzner, an environmental analyst for Connecticut’s Department of Environment Protection.
First signed into law in July 2007, a final version of “An Act Concerning the Collection and Recycling of Covered Electronic Devices” was adopted in June 2010 and is set to roll out in full force in the fall. The law will provide free electronics recycling to Connecticut residents with seven or fewer electronic devices to recycle at any given time—a great deal for anyone who’s been reluctantly (yet responsibly) using an old monitor as an ottoman.
Each Connecticut city will determine its own mode of e-waste collection, but the most common way to collect covered electronic devices (CEDs) is to set up a drop-off area at a local transfer station, according to the Connecticut government website. When the collection modes are set and the state approves recycling companies, Connecticut residents will be able to recycle their computers, monitors, printers and televisions free of charge with those companies. Only electronic devices from a home will be accepted. E-waste generated by businesses falls under different federal and state regulations.
The e-waste recycling plan takes the financial burden off consumers and municipalities and places it solely on the electronics manufacturers. Approved recycling companies will sort the materials by manufacturer and bill manufacturers directly for the cost of recycling and transporting its CEDs. Electronics manufacturers will also pay a tax to help cover unmarked or “orphan” items.
Perhaps the most disposable electronic devices of all, cell phones, aren’t included in the recycling plan. The legislation clearly states that cell phones aren’t acceptable CEDs “unless they contain a video display area greater than 4 inches measured diagonally.” However, each municipality will have the option to partner with Call2Recycle, operated by the national nonprofit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.
Twenty-two states have passed similar legislation mandating statewide electronic recycling, according to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, an organization that promotes responsible electronics production and recycling. That means that once those laws go into effect (many, like Missouri, South Carolina and New York, are still in the process of being adopted), more than 60 percent of the U.S. will be covered by e-waste recycling laws. All of the laws, except for California, require the manufacturers to pay for recycling.
Still, many areas, whether they’re covered by statewide programs or not, are collecting e-waste. In Kansas, the Johnson County Environmental Department is hoping to set a Guinness World Record for electronics recycling this weekend. And the nationwide chain, Best Buy, has a free electronics recycling program with very few restrictions.
Although it has quite a few restrictions, after a two-year delay, Connecticut is ready to get the ball rolling on its e-waste recycling program.
“Recycler applications are due by the end of August,” Metzner says, “and we’re hoping to post a list by the first of October.”