Is it really illegal to put computers and electronics into the landfill?
Not quite yet, Kevin. But starting July 1 it will be illegal to dump any electronic waste (e-waste) into landfills in the state. The Electronics Recycling Jobs Act prohibits the disposal of residentially generated e-waste in Colorado. Businesses and governments have been legally required to properly recycle their e-waste for quite awhile.
Why was the Electronic Recycling Jobs Act passed? For starters, electronics contain a significant number of toxic materials. Even though modern landfills are lined to protect our natural and water resources, there's always the chance that landfilled materials may leach into local water supplies. Just a few of the nasty elements in electronics are lead, cadmium and beryllium.
Conversely, some incredibly valuable materials that comprise electronics include precious metals, copper and engineered plastics. All of these materials require considerable energy to process and remanufacture. And recycling increases jobs as well. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, recycling sustains ten jobs for every one landfill job.
Based on the environmental and economic benefits, recycling electronics seems like a no-brainer, right? Here's the rub: it costs more money to recycle electronics than to simply throw them away. As an avid environmentalist, I could write an entire column preaching about how landfilling e-waste will cost our society significant amounts of money in the future due to pollution and health issues. However, I'll spare you for now and just say that I understand how some residents are frustrated that it costs money to recycle electronics. Let me explain how to recycle electronics locally and why it costs money in Summit County (and in most communities across the country).
We're very fortunate that residents and businesses can recycle e-waste at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP), also known as the landfill. Electronics can be recycled at the SCRAP Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Types of electronics accepted include computers, monitors, printers, DVD players, TV, stereos and more. Costs vary by item and size, but computers (CPUs) and laptops are $8 each. Large TVs may be significantly more depending on screen size. Samsung electronics may be recycled for free, because Samsung pays for the fees for their products to be recycled.
So why does Summit County charge for electronics recycling? The county must pay to ensure that electronics are recycled properly. You can rest assured when you drop off your computer at the SCRAP that your personal data will be erased, and the computer will be properly disassembled in the US of A. All local recycled electronics are picked up by Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), a company that has earned multiple third-party certifications demonstrating environmental stewardship and recycling ethics. All e-waste received by ERI is recycled and traceable. ERI ensures that e-waste does not end up in the hands of other companies, local landfills, and is not illegally exported to other nations.
The next time you need to recycle electronics, simply head to the SCRAP, fork out the few bucks it costs, pat yourself and your County recycler on the back for doing the right thing. As always, feel free to call the High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703 with questions.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.