Tuesday, February 08, 2011
By Corey Paul
During the first year of a statewide ban on dumping electronics in the trash, Oregonians recycled more than 24 million pounds of electronics, or about 5 million pounds more than they did in 2009, according to data released this week by the Oregon E-Cycles program, part of the Department of Environmental Quality.
Program Manager Kathy Kiwala said two factors apart from the ban contributed to the increase in 2010, which was the second year of the program. First, it appears more people are upgrading to digital televisions and getting rid of their old ones. Also, recycling companies had to notify their customers of the ban, which meant more Oregonians learning about the potentially harmful pollutants contained in computers, monitors and televisions.
Under the E-Cycles program, the DEQ works with about 240 collectors across the state and 6 recycling companies. In 2010, about 30 more electronic waste collectors opened statewide. Companies such as Fossil Solid Waste Transfer & Recycling in Wheeler County expanded access in Eastern Oregon, boosting the numbers further.
The E-Cycles program was established in 2007 by HB 2626, and it uses no tax payer money. Instead, the program relies on annual fees from electronics manufacturers that sell their products in Oregon. Fees are capped at $15,000 and based on sales from the year prior. Manufacturers also have to participate in a collection and recycling program, submitting a plan to the DEQ for approval. Smaller companies pay lower fees, say $40, and don't have to participate in the recycling on the scale of, say Dell.
Some of the electronics contain valuable elements such as copper, gold, and lead. Thus, the recycled products are sold to cover the required services, and can even lead to profit.
"There's no need to go out and mine a mountain top or into the ground when we can mine this pile of urban waste," Kiwala said. "It saves a lot of energy."
Even though the electronics contain toxins and carcinogens such as cadmium and mercury, disposal before the ban posed no imminent threat, according to DEQ. And though waste lingering in landfills is less than ideal, it hasn't been flagged for cleanup. That's because modern landfills are lined, catching runoff in pipes for treatment.
Corey Paul is an associate writer for Oregon Business.