The Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act, signed into law last year, went into effect in New York on April 1, 2011. The law requires manufacturers to register with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and create a system to collect, handle and recycle or reuse electronic waste. The recycling program must be free to all consumers, schools, governments, businesses with less than 50 employees and non-profits with less than 75 employees. Starting January 1, 2015, people can no longer can put e-waste in a landfill or waste-to-energy facility.
Manufacturers have to create a public education program to let consumers know how to return products covered under the law. The law also creates a “statewide e-waste recycling goal and requires manufacturers to recycle their share of the statewide goal based on market share.”
Manufacturers are required to take back any electronic product they manufacture or a product of another manufacturer’s brand if the consumer purchases an upgrade. For example: if someone is buying a new computer that is a different brand than the one they currently own, the manufacturer must accept the old computer.
“This is a huge win for the environment and consumers, who will now be able to recycle electronic waste at no cost,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.
“This cutting-edge recycling program requires manufacturers to provide all consumers in the state with well-publicized and convenient options for getting rid of used electronics,” said Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“This new program will prevent millions of pounds of electronic waste from entering New York’s limited landfills,” said Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.
In 2007, only 18 percent of e-waste recycled and 82 percent was disposed of, primarily in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From 1999 to 2005 the recycling rate stayed at 15 percent. However, from 2006 to 2007 the recycling rate increased to 18 percent, “possibly because several states have started mandatory collection and recycling programs for electronics.”
“The rapid evolution of technology has meant these products seemingly become obsolete almost as soon as they are manufactured and because they contain toxic substances like lead, mercury, chromium and cadmium they can damage our food and water supplies,” Sweeney said.