Beginning January 1, 2015, it will be illegal for residents of New York State to dispose of nearly all electronics products by throwing them into regular trash or leaving them curbside. The sanitation department has announced that these items will not be picked up and that the resident could receive a summons.
“I don’t see how this law can last, or at the very least it won’t really be enforced,” said a graphics designer from Boro Park. “I understand that it’s not good for the environment, but a law has to be practical for people to abide by [it]. People throw out cell phones and monitors every day. It’s not realistic to expect them to take these things back to Best Buy or some other store to get rid of them. If they make it easier to do, I would be all for it.”
The new law covers computer parts, mp3 players, printers/fax machines, and a slew of other devices. Batteries and light bulbs are not included in the ban.
Since its passage, the state has been working with manufacturers and retailers, who are required by the law to accept and facilitate recycling of items that they sell, by designing systems for consumer returns.
The NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act, as it is formally known, requires manufacturers to provide “free and convenient recycling of electronic waste to most consumers in the state.” Options that producers can choose from include pick-up locations (usually the retail stores themselves), mail-back programs, and/or community collection events.
Mega-retailers Best Buy, Staples and Dell are offering free pickup programs for disposal of products purchased directly from them.
In New York City, buildings with 10 units or more can enroll in a “free and convenient pickup service,” offered by the Department of Sanitation. Some private organizations such as the Lower East Side Ecology Center have also opened drop-off centers.
Businesses have been unable to dispose of “e-waste” in regular garbage since 2012.
“To let residents know about the new state law, DSNY [Department of Sanitation of the City of New York] launched our e-cycleNYC program in advance of the ban, and staff have been talking to building [owners and managers] about the ban for a year. Four hundred fifty buildings are currently enrolled in the program,” Belinda Mager, Assistant Director of DSNY’s Bureau of Public Affairs, told Hamodia, regarding efforts to prepare the public for the new law. “We are producing a brochure in English, Chinese and Spanish. We sent out a press release, have been working with 32BJ [union of property service workers] to train their supers on these programs, and all of our apartment building super manager trainings highlight e-cycleNYC and mention the upcoming ban.”
Mrs. Mager added that DSNY had utilized multiple media outlets to educate the city about the upcoming changes.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which has been overseeing implementation, has provided a list of registered manufacturers, the individual products covered, and the means of collection being offered by the company.
Some critics have said that while urban areas afford many options for disposal, those that live in sparsely populated areas will face far greater inconvenience.
“This new law will help keep electronics, and their potentially harmful components, out of our waste stream,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in an official statement. “By recycling electronics, New Yorkers can help decrease disposal costs and protect the environment.”
According to the DEC, U.S. consumers dispose of 400 million units of electronic equipment per year, making it the fastest growing category of waste. Recycling, its statement claims, will protect human health by keeping toxins such as lead and mercury out of groundwater systems and the environment by conserving raw materials and decreasing landfill levels.
“I don’t have any problem with the idea of recycling,” said another Boro Park resident who asked not to be named. “If they want to give everybody special bins like they have for paper and plastic or have a special pick-up day once a week, that’s fine. But if people are going to have to start bringing broken monitors and fax machines to stores, they’re just going to put them in the garbage can on the corner.”