Like many in Pennsylvania, you’ve become accustomed to simply taking your trash and recycling to the curb and having it hauled away, taking it to a local drop-off or participating in a special collection event to recycle electronics and other consumer goods. These options made it convenient to do the right thing.
But because of the unintended consequences of the Covered Device Recycling Act, it’s harder than ever to dispose of certain electronics, particularly old televisions and computer monitors. Haulers aren’t permitted to take these items to the landfill — under the law, these items need to be recycled.
While some haulers do offer a curbside recycling program for electronics, not every resident has access to these. You should call your hauler before leaving anything at the curb.
What’s the point of this law?
The Covered Device Recycling Act (Act 108 of 2010) started out with good intentions. Electronic devices contain valuable and recoverable materials such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver, plastics and ferrous metals, so there is real value in recycling these materials. Additionally, knowing that everyday electronics contain lead, cadmium and mercury that are hazardous waste, the law’s intent was to keep these materials out of the landfill. It was a win for the economy and a win for the environment.
The covered devices covered by the law:
- Desktop and laptop computers
- Computer monitors
- Peripherals (anything that connects to a computer such as a mouse, printer, keyboard, hard drive, etc.)
The Act established free manufacturer recycling programs for residents and a disposal ban for all covered electronic devices. All covered devices would be recycled at no cost. To further ensure these electronics were dealt with properly, landfills and other solid waste disposal facilities could no longer accept these items or their components.
What’s not working?
Implementing Act 108 has presented some challenges. As the Department of Environmental Protection explains in their Report to the General Assembly Covered Device Recycling Act 2014 , some major issues need to be addressed in order to make CDRA successful.
- There is still no dependable statewide collection and processing infrastructure so that local governments, collectors and recyclers can operate and provide recycling services on a continuing basis.
- TVs and computer monitors with cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are a big problem, due to their leaded glass, an absence of low-cost recycling technology, and a limited number of CRT processors.
- The cost for processing and recycling CRTs has increased.
- Many municipalities have discontinued their electronics recycling programs, and many retailers and second-hand stores have stopped accepting TVs.
In short, Pennsylvanian’s e‑waste crisis won’t be remedied until the law gets fixed.