Preventing the E-Waste Stream from Becoming a Flood

Revamped recycling program mandates that manufacturers of electronic products pick up the tab for disposing of discarded devices

Gov. Chris Christie yesterday signed a bill to overhaul the state’s e-waste recycling program, a step advocates say will ensure the safe disposal of old televisions, computers, and other electronic equipment.

The legislation (S-981) is designed to put the onus on electronic manufacturers to bear the cost and obligation of recycling e-waste, which includes in many cases toxic materials such as lead.

By most accounts, New Jersey’s e-waste recycling program was nearing collapse, with old electronic equipment piling up around the state, including in many public works’ garages.

A couple of years ago, the market for e-waste declined, causing many manufacturers to cut back on what they picked up from towns and counties while reducing what they paid recycling vendors. That left counties and towns, which collect the material, with no place to recycle the e-waste.

“Current law requires the recycling of e-waste, but manufacturers, in recent years, have been dodging their responsibility to work with municipalities and counties to get the job done,’’ said Dominick D’Altilio, president of the Association of New Jersey Recyclers, which lobbied for the changes.

“This law clarifies the manufacturers’ obligation and gives the state Department of Environmental Protection new power to act should the product makers drop the ball,’’ he said.

Christie signed the bill without any comment on the legislation. He previously had pocket-vetoed a similar bill in the lame-duck session last year, again without any comment.

The state has required the recycling of e-waste, one of the fastest-growing parts of the waste stream, since 2008. It is designed to keep potentially toxic materials, such as lead and cadmium, often used in electronic devices, out of landfills and trash incinerators.

“Boosting recycling, especially of new and dangerous materials in e-waste is the key to minimizing damage to our environment,’’ said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), a sponsor of the bill. “Recycled materials consume less energy than using virgin materials to make new products, which means less greenhouse gases are emitted because less energy is consumed.’’

The bill is expected to save counties and towns an “indeterminate’’ amount of money, according to a fiscal estimate prepared by the Office of Legislative Services.

Under the new law, each manufacturer of electronic equipment would be responsible for the recycling of its market share in weight of covered material. The DEP would be responsible for overseeing and administering the statewide program.

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