State considers allowing electronics back in landfills
Posted June 20
Updated June 21
Cary, N.C. — In a consumable world, many towns, counties and states encourages residents and businesses to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible. Even state law contributes to the cause in North Carolina. Under current law, televisions, computers, basically anything with a screen is banned from landfills, but a bill being considered in the state legislature could reverse that ban.
The change could add up for the Town of Cary, where electronics factor into a goal that 40 percent of waste be recycled.
"We get a lot of electronics," said Joe Stewart. "People drop it and break it. Young'uns might knock it over, throw a ball and hit it."
Stewart collects recyclables for Cary and estimates the town fills a 40-yard bin with old electronics each week. That works out to about 220 tons each year.
"We got into this about three years ago. We didn't know what we aware getting into really," Stewart said.
In 2010, lawmakers voted to ban televisions, computers and other electronics from landfills in North Carolina and set up an electronics recycling program, funded by television and computer manufacturers through annual fees and contracts with recyclers to accept their products.
Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, a longtime opponent of the program, counted the cost of recycling among her arguments against the ban.
"There's no money in it," Wade told the Senate Commerce Committee.
"If recycling ever comes back and there’s a profit to be made, we can always change the law and go back to recycling," she said. "But right now, we have a bigger problem with them being abandoned and the possibility of having some kind of contamination because we don’t have anywhere to put them."
Wade claimed that in rural areas, where no official recycling programs exist, people dispose of electronics by throwing them in the woods or ditches.
For awhile, Cary made money off the recycling of electronics, but in recent years they've had to pay a vendor to take the items. It's all part of the ebb and flow of the recycling economy.
"We've seen an increase, especially the last three or four years now," said Cary Solid Waste Manager Bob Holden.
Abdel Barakat, owner of a Raleigh shop called Undead Electronics, attributes the growing pile of electronics to the quality of the products.
"You get a DVD player or a Blueray player, it might work for a year, it might work for a couple of months. You know it's a disposable item. It's not like they used to make them," he said.
Stewart says no matter what happens at the legislature, one thing just makes perfect sense to him.
"I hope they keep recycling," he said. "It's better than going to a landfill."
The State Senate has passed the bill. The regulatory reduction measure, House Bill 169, is under consideration in the House.