Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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Rick Dumas, CEO of eWaste Recycling Solutions, LLC, in Auburn, points out all of the old TV sets, computer monitors and other electronic devices that await dismantling for recycling.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Christopher Pagon of Auburn dismantles an old television at eWaste Recycling Solutions. Maine’s electronic waste law has saved municipal taxpayers about $7 million in disposal costs.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
The list presently includes cell phones, mercury batteries, auto switches and thermostats, and compact fluorescent bulbs.
The Consumer Electronics Association, the Arlington, Va., trade organization for the consumer electronics industry, would welcome changes to Maine's electronic waste law, said Walter Alcorn, vice president of environmental affairs.
"The Maine program is one of the most expensive state programs in the country, and the $3,000 fee is a long-standing concern because it hits smaller manufacturers the hardest," said Alcorn.
He said his association is committed to recycling but supports voluntary programs such as Best Buy's, which takes back electronics at its 1,200 stores.
The Maine Municipal Association, which has embraced most of the LePage deregulation proposals that would affect cities and towns, does not support getting rid of the electronic waste and other product stewardship laws because doing so could raise property taxes.
The electronic waste law has been effective in cutting down on municipal waste. Since 2006, 22 million pounds of electronics were recycled under the program, according to the DEP. That saved municipal taxpayers about $7 million and took 3.3 million pounds of lead and other toxic substances out of the waste stream.
The state's household electronic recycling rate went from 3.2 pounds per capita in 2006 to 6.19 pounds in 2009, the latest data available.
And there is room to grow because the program is capturing only half of the TV sets and computers being tossed out by households. State Rep. Melissa Walsh-Innes, D-Yarmouth, has filed a bill this session to expand the program to small businesses.
It is true that under the program, Mainers have fewer shopping choices for TV sets. There are 17 manufacturers of TVs and computer monitors on the "do not sell list" distributed to Maine retailers. Those companies elected not to pay the registration fee.
But consumers are saving on disposal costs. Before the law was passed in 2004, municipalities typically charged consumers $25 to dispose of a television set. Now that manufacturers have to pay the recycling costs, handling fees have been reduced to $2 to $4. Some cities and towns, such as Portland, have eliminated fees.
Electronic recycling laws are not under fire in other states, said Jason Linnell, executive director of the National Center for Electronics Recycling.
He said that 65 percent of the country's population is covered by electronic waste recycling laws.
"No state has rolled back their program. If anything, they are expanding them," said Linnell.
Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:
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