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Politics & Government

E-Waste Disposal Restrictions A Burden On PA Residents

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Recycling electronic devices remains unpopular despite the passage of legislation meant to streamline the process, according to new research.

Pennsylvania’s Covered Device Recycling Act was passed in 2010 and prevented residents from discarding certain electronics, such as televisions, with normal garbage.

While the Act was meant to increase sustainability and stimulate recycling, it was not as successful as anticipated. A survey by the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center shows that, six years later, few residents are inclined to properly recycle old electronics. The survey cites inconvenient drop-off locations and fees associated with recycling old electronics.

While the 2010 Covered Device Recycling Act aimed to increase the number of e-waste recycling centers and hold manufacturers accountable for the proper disposal of products, Justin Stockdale, regional director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, said that it transferred the burden onto the consumer.

“Manufacturers don’t have to support all recycling,” he said. “They support recycling of what they’re obligated to cover and that leaves the small businesses collecting TVs outside of the system. So there are outlets, but they all come at a cost to the consumer.”

TVs usually cost around $20 to recycle, and Stockdale said many consumers prefer to leave their old electronics tucked away in basements or attics instead of paying the fee to get rid of them.

Some have offered new solutions. Kyle Winkler, the recycling supervisor for Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Environmental Services, suggested adding a recycling fee to the initial purchase of an electronic.

“No one would complain if they bought a $700 TV and there was a $20 fee tacked onto it,” Winkler said. The fact that the fee comes when the TV is worthless, he said, is the root of the problem.

The survey results also offered solutions, which included, “a consolidated, specific law, that is not deeply layered, that does not lead to interpretation.”

Stockdale said that provisions might not lead to change, though.

“We’re adding layers on top of the piece of original legislation,” Stockdale said. “Rather than simplifying the process and making it simpler for everybody to understand and implement, we’re actually adding complexity to it.”

Rather than changing the legislation or increasing the price of a TV, members of the Pennsylvania Resources Council said that manufacturers should have to pay the fees required to recycle their own electronics.

While Stockdale said he doesn’t think it’s the best solution, new legislation would likely pass within the year.