Local News

Computers, TVs must be recycled starting July 1

Posted June 12, 2011 10:36 a.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2011 6:30 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina residents won't be able to just throw broken televisions and aged-out computers in the trash starting July 1.

A new law taking affect that day will help keep hazardous materials, such as cadmium and mercury, out of the ground and water near landfills and allow valuable parts from electronic equipment to be reused, said N.C. recycling coordinator Scott Mouw.

"North Carolina has one of the best marketplaces in the country for recycling electronic equipment," Mouw said. "We just need to motivate people to do the right thing with their electronic stuff."

The average person tosses five to six pounds of electronic equipment each year, and most of those items contain materials that are valuable and could be reused, said Ellen Lorscheider, planning and programs manager for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

"The recycling industry is growing, and they need to be able to harvest, especially the metals," she said. 

The law addresses only televisions and computer equipment, such as desktop monitors, printers, scanners and keyboards. But other electronics, from smart phones to GPS systems, may also be recycled at many sites.

Fees paid by electronics manufacturers and retailers in the state are used to pay for recycling programs operated by counties and municipalities, Lorscheider said.

About $475,000 was paid into that fund last year, and 61 of the state's 100 counties have established electronics recycling programs, she said.

Consumers can check out the DENR website for a list of recycling programs throughout the state.

Working but slightly outdated electronics are eagerly accepted by some nonprofits. Others may be refurbished and resold by electronics processors, Mouw said.

The individual working parts are removed from nonworking electronics, then the rest is ground up to extract re-useable materials, such as metal and glass, he said.

"The processors try to capture just as much value as they can," Mouw said.

The recycled parts also help North Carolina because the state is home to about a half-dozen major electronic processing companies, more than most other states, Mouw said.

There also are other recycling options. In North Carolina, computer makers are required to offer free and convenient recycling programs, including a postage-paid mail-in option.

Televisions are accepted by many retailers like Staples and Best Buy, but there are certain exclusions.