The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 14, 2013

Pennsylvania gets strict on electronic device waste

— A new state law requiring the recycling of computers, televisions and other electronic devices will mean a little more effort on the part of residents but a big benefit to the environment, officials say.

Pennsylvania's "Covered Device Recycling Act" goes into effect Jan. 24 and will prohibit many electronic devices from being discarded into landfills and incinerators. The law means residents will no longer be able to place their computers, monitors, keyboards, printers and a number of other electronics on the curb along with their trash for pickup.

"If they set out TVs to the curb they won't get picked up," Penn Township Manager Jeff Garvick said. "They can bring it down to the drop-off site. We collect electronics every day."

The act also requires manufacturers of covered devices, like televisions and computer monitors, that are sold or offered for sale in Pennsylvania to make collection programs available to residents for the recycling of those devices. Though not required, some retailers are also offering collection programs.

Ellen O'Connor, spokeswoman for the YCSWA, said staff at the waste-to-energy facility also have been removing electronic items from the waste stream as trash is brought in for incineration.

But starting Jan. 24, waste haulers will be prohibited from picking up those items. In fact, waste haulers have been directed to place stickers on electronic devices that provide directions for where to go to properly manage them.

Many consumer electronic products contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury as well as other materials that are better kept out of the environment, officials said.

According to the enviornmental group PennFuture, which was instrumental in getting the law approved in November 2010, "e-waste" comprises about 2 percent of the overall municipal waste stream, but accounts for nearly 70 percent of the toxic materials disposed in landfills.

A typical cathode ray tube computer monitor, for a non-flat screen model, contains 4 to 7 pounds of lead.

"Everything has a computer board in it now," PennFuture President and CEO George Jugovic Jr. said. "This protects both our air and our water."

Jugovic said the law was crafted to also help spur the creation of jobs in the recycling industry. He pointed out that companies, such as Pittsburgh-based eLoop, have developed to properly handle the material.

"It takes advantage of free market and private enterprise to develop an industry that protects the environment," he said.

Adams County Environmental Service Director Bicky Redman said it is important to make sure those collecting electronics material are certified with the state before handing in material. She also recommended consumers ask retail stores whether they accept items for recycling.

O'Connor said the authority has been trying to inform the public about the new requirements for more than a year.

"I think people are aware of it. How it will impact them, I'm not sure," she said. "There are a number of options for people."

Under the act, "covered devices" include televisions, desktop and laptop computers, computer monitors and computer-connected items such as a mouse, keyboard, printers and fax machines. A number of other items, such as answering machines, compact disc players, electric typewriters, cell phones, hard drives, laptops, and gaming products are also accepted at the collection sites.

O'Connor said the county and participating municipalities are reimbursed for the electronics they collect.

"There is a value for electronic material right now. There is a reimbursement for them to participate," she said.

The authority has a contract with New York-based Eco-International to handle the recycling of its electronic material. The company was chosen because of its responsible reputation.

"They recycle as much as they possibly can. We know it's not going to a third-world country. That was an important factor for us," she said.

To register online

Residents can take their electronics to the Penn Township recycling center on Heights Avenue, from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information on the state's electronic recycling program and collection sites, click here.


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