On January 1st 2015, it will become illegal in New York State for ordinary people to place old computers and TV’s into their trash or place them at the curb—a step in the 2010 NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act that has been coming for five years. This has the potential to greatly increase the need for e-waste recycling. Suddenly, there will be a new playing field. Not recycling will no longer be a viable option. This will result in new and expanded opportunities for recycling businesses to make a profit and help protect our environment.
First, will the DEC’s friendly reminder actually work? Here’s what they say
“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today reminded New Yorkers that as of January 1, 2015, the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act prohibits certain types of electronic waste from being placed in the trash, or at the curbside for trash pickup.” DEC Urges New Yorkers to Recycle, Not Trash, Electronics (12/11/2014, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) )
The DEC’s friendly message does not define what they mean by ‘prohibits’ in the sense that they make no mention of the repercussions of putting your old TV or Computer into the trash. But the law itself says,
“§ 71-2729. Enforcement of title 26 of article 27 of this chapter. 1. a. Any consumer, as defined in title twenty-six of article twenty- seven of this chapter, who violates any provision of, or fails to perform any duty imposed by, section 27-2611 of this chapter, shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed one hundred dollars for each violation.” ENVIROMENTAL CONSERVATION LAW ARTICLE 27 TITLE 26 | ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT RECYCLING AND REUSE
(If I have it right ((and a good investigative media would be helpful here)) folks who march their old TV’s to the curb could get a $200 fine. This would be a game changer in people’s behavior with e-waste, assuming the law is enforced.)
The DEC mentions all the stuff you could and should do with your old e-waste, but a lot of folks won’t take the effort to dispose of their e-waster properly unless motivated by a penalty. What’s happening now is that when folks do put their old computers and TV’s in the trash, the local authorities pick that e-waste up and send it to a separate recycling center—so I’ve been told. The problem (even if this is actually happening) is that between the time the e-waste is set outside and the point when it is picked up, scavengers smash through the equipment, take the copper and other valuables, and leave the remains about our neighborhoods, remains that that are hardly recyclable anymore.
This all means that the January deadline won’t work if the law doesn’t work as it was intended. If those who still put their e-waste to the curb and the authorities don’t fine them as the law states, then it will be business as usual.
Our local media needs to investigate this issue and find out whether our local authorities are going to enforce this part of the law that kicks in this January.
If the law were to be enforced, if the media were to do its job by informing the public about this January deadline and investigating what the local authorities intend to do about it, we would see a greatly increased market for recycling e-waste. Once the public has felt the sting of a few fines, a new playing field would be established.
With a new playing field, it would be more convenient, and possibly even profitable, to take care of e-waste properly. However if the media doesn’t expose this deadline, and authorities don’t feel compelled to act, then the e-waste problem permeating our neighborhoods will continue apace.
Again, in order for this new playing field to happen, all 700,000 folks in Monroe County need to abide by the law. You can help this happen by making sure your media covers this story—making sure the message gets out and the authorities are monitored to see if they are enforcing compliance. Simply sharing this with your friends ain’t going to do the trick.