DOEseeks public comment on e-waste regulations

Published on Thu, Aug 23, 2007 by Tara Nelson

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DOE seeks public comment on e-waste regulations

By Tara Nelson

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) is seeking public comment on a second set of proposed rules regarding the state’s new electronic recycling program scheduled to begin January 1, 2009.
The new rules include requirements for all manufacturers to provide recycling services throughout the state at no cost to households, small businesses, small governments, charities and school districts.

Electronic products contain heavy metals and other chemicals at hazardous levels that make them difficult to dispose of safely.

Cullen Stephenson, manager of the DOE’s solid waste program, said for every cathode ray picture tube, a television contains an estimated four to eight pounds of lead.

“This legislation is unique in that it reflects the concept of product stewardship – it puts the responsibility or running the waste recycling program on the makers of the products and gives consumers the responsibility for returning their products at end-of-life,” Stephenson said in a statement.

A 2005 study by the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) also found that more than 100 million computers, monitors and televisions become obsolete each year in the United States, the disposal of which can harm human health by releasing toxic substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium into the environment.

The proposed rules would require manufacturers to develop recycling plans; performance standards for operators, product collectors and transporters; and reporting processes to keep those substances out of the environment.

Additionally, the report found that computers contain precious metals, such as gold, silver, and platinum, which require substantial amounts of energy and land to extract. Those metals can often be extracted with less environmental impact from used electronics rather than from the environment.

The department is accepting public comments on the rule proposal through 5 p.m. August 30. Written comments should be submitted to: Jay Shepard, Department of Ecology, PO Box 47600, Olympia, Wash. 98504-7600. Comments may also be submitted by email to wa-recycles-electronics@ecy.wa.gov. For information on recyclers that accept electronics, call 800/RECYCLE (800/732-9253) or visit http://1800recycle.wa.gov.

Whatcom County residents will also be required to more carefully dispose of electronics, computer monitors and compact fluorescent light bulbs, following a decision by the Whatcom County Council last month.

In their regular meeting July 10, council members unanimously passed a resolution outlining their intent to require recycling of all electronics and mercury-containing products in the community.

The rule would require Whatcom County households to recycle burned-out fluorescent-tube lighting and compact fluorescent bulbs, as well as other household electronics such as monitors, laptop computers and televisions. Businesses are already required to recycle fluorescent bulbs.

For more information on electronic waste, visit www.ban.org.