State, local trash handlers size up new e-waste rules

ADDISON COUNTY — State and local trash handlers are sizing up a new “e-recycling law” that will soon prohibit them from putting unwanted electronic equipment in landfills while establishing new drop-off centers for some of that material to be recycled.
Bill S.77, recently signed into law by Gov. James Douglas, requires the manufacturers of certain electronic equipment to fund and implement a system for collecting and recycling that material. Equipment covered under the law includes computers, monitors, printers, televisions and devices containing a cathode ray tube, noted Teresa Kuczynski, manager of the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD).
The law requires manufacturers of such products to register with the state by this July and pay a $5,000 fee, with a recurring annual fee still to be determined. Manufacturers must also label their products for recycling and establish collection sites — at least three per county — for the harvest of the material when it is no longer wanted. Those collection points must be supervised and up and running by the summer of 2011, according to Kuczynski.
“It’s really an exciting development,” Kuczynski said of the new law, which is already in place in 20 other states.
While the new law will be an added cost for electronics manufacturers — and ultimately consumers, to whom companies will undoubtedly pass on the new e-recycling fees — proponents believe the program will take more refuse out of the waste stream. Some of the electronic refuse covered by the new law includes harmful substances such as mercury and lead.
The new law will also result the ACSWMD being able to waive some of the fees it currently charges for waste electronics. The district currently charges $11 to receive a computer system, or $6 per individual piece; $11 for a desktop photocopier; $7 for a conventional television; and $15 for a console TV.
Kuczynski noted the district also charges fees for taking electronic equipment not covered under the new law — such as MP-3 players, fax machines, stereo equipment and DVD players. She is not yet sure whether the district will continue to charge for those items when the new law takes effect. It is clear, however, that almost all e-waste will be banned from landfills by the end of this year, according to Kuczynski.
The ACSWMD will host one of the new e-recycling collection points, with the rest to be determined. Those sites could be offered by an area retailer, municipality or a current recycler — such as Middlebury-based Good Point Recycling. The company, founded and managed by Robin Ingenthron, has become a national leader in recycling computer equipment, televisions and other electronic gadgets.
Ingenthron said his company already has landed e-recycling contracts in Maine and Rhode Island. Good Point is in a good position to harvest unwanted electronic equipment in Vermont, as it has collection sites in almost every county in the Green Mountain State.
“For us, it’s a matter of extending our collection (points in Vermont) by 15 percent,” Ingenthron said.
The new law could substantially boost the amount of material that Good Point is processing from Vermont. Ingenthron suspects there might be a good number of old TVs and computer systems gathering dust in people’s attics.
“Most people refuse to pay the $10 when an item becomes obsolete,” Ingenthron said. He’s concerned that in light of the new law, people could substantially pare back on their electronics recycling until the summer of 2011, when the drop-off fees expire. Then, all of a sudden, people might unload their basements and attics contents en masse.
“Right now, it’s heartbreak hill,” Ingenthron said. “If we make it to June 2011, we’ll be sitting pretty.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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