Electronics recycling in Washington down slightly
Friday, December 05, 2014
Source: KOMO News
LYNNWOOD, Wash. (AP) - Unwanted televisions and outdated computers provide tons of work for a business here called E-Waste.
It amounted to two tons, plus or minus a few pounds, this year alone, said Sam Kim, a co-owner of the business.
That's the collective weight of electronic products dropped off for free recycling through a state-run program known as E-Cycle Washington.
E-Waste is one of 340 participating drop-off sites for the program, which since 2009 has collected 250 million pounds of TVs, computers and other electronics.
More than 5.4 million electronic devices have been recycled in the past six years, according to figures from the state Department of Ecology. That's helped keep millions of pounds of lead and toxic heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium out of landfills.
This is an impressive but not surprising feat to Kim, who sees people bring in castoffs every day.
"There are plenty of electronics to go around," he said.
Residents, businesses and public agencies can recycle computers, monitors, laptops, tablet computers, televisions, portable DVD players and e-readers at no cost. The program costs around $11 million a year, with manufacturers picking up the tab under a 2006 law.
Former state Rep. Brian Sullivan, now a Snohomish County councilman, helped craft the law and steer it through the Legislature.
"It was cutting-edge," Sullivan said. "It just made a lot of sense. It is truly a legacy bill, and I am very proud of it."
Washington was the fourth state after California, Maine and Maryland to pass an electronic waste law. Since 2006, more than a dozen other states have passed electronic-product recycling laws.
Sullivan recalled that Sony, Panasonic and other major manufacturers were opposed the program. Hewlett Packard was, too, he said, until lawmakers agreed to exclude printers from the list of items that could be recycled for free. In the end, it passed with strong bipartisan support and gave the state and manufacturers two-plus years to ramp up.
In 2009, 38.5 million pounds of electronic products were recycled statewide, with an average of 2,200 computers, televisions and monitors collected each day around Washington. Snohomish County accounted for roughly 5.5 million pounds of the total.
Collections statewide rose each year, reaching 45.2 million pounds in 2013. The total for 2014 is going to be down a bit, possibly because people have gotten rid of their big stuff, speculated Miles Kuntz, program manager for E-Cycle Washington.
The public's embrace of the program has the agency hoping to expand the list of products that can be recycled for free.
The agency plans to ask the Legislature in 2015 to include printers, mice, keyboards, external hard drives, VCRs and video game consoles on the list of the program's "covered electronic products," Kuntz said.
"We have gotten steady and constant requests from the public and local government to add more products," Kuntz said.
Today, consumers are likely pay a fee to recycle any of those items. Since those devices are made of the same materials as televisions and computers, it makes sense to keep them out of the landfills, he said. If lawmakers agree, the changes could take effect in 2016.
It would be welcomed, Kim said.
"There are a lot of electronics sitting in homes that are not being recycled," he said. "Households will be more willing to (recycle) if they know it will be completely free."
Most of the electronics collected through the state program are dismantled for recycling in Washington, Kuntz said.
Metals, plastics and glass are separated and sold as commodities to be reused in new products. On average, only 2 percent ends up in a landfill, and that's mostly the particle-board frames from old TV sets, the agency reports.
E-Waste in Lynnwood is one of a handful of collectors where such processing is also done on site.