MONTPELIER - In 2011, Vermont became the 24th state in the U.S. to institute an electronic waste (e-waste) recycling law, which will require all households, charities, school districts and small businesses to dispose of their electronic equipment at designated drop-off spots throughout the state.
As part of the Vermont E-Waste Recycling Program, administered by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the state is partnering with local solid waste management districts and businesses to offer free disposal of electronic waste starting on July 1, when electronic manufacturers will begin paying for the collection and recycling program. Solid waste districts are currently subsidizing the costs of e-waste collections, and consumers may have to pay a small fee to recycle most items, depending on the facility.
Vermont created an E-Waste program because "electronic devices contain toxic materials (including lead, mercury, and chromium) that should be managed responsibly as well as precious metals (such as gold) that should be recovered and recycled," according to the DEC.
Americans now own about 24 electronic products per household, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, and electronic waste is the fastest growing component of waste. In 2008, Vermont solid waste districts collected more than 1.6 million pounds of e-waste. Of the 2.25 million tons of electronic products ready for "end-of-life management" in 2007 in the U.S., 18 percent (414,000 tons) was collected for recycling and 82 percent (1.84 million tons) was thrown out, primarily in landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2003, California was the first state to pass an e-waste recycling law. Other states with similar laws include Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
By comparison, former Gov. David Paterson signed New York's electronic waste recycling law in the spring of 2010, requiring all manufacturers that sell electronic equipment in the state to have a free, convenient electronic waste recycling program in effect by April 1, 2011. Yet residents are not banned from disposing their electronic waste at landfills until Jan. 1, 2015.