Getting rid of that old television — and with the coming of all-digital TV, it will be a common event — is not as easy as tossing it in the garbage can. Several states, including Minnesota, have new electronic recycling laws and the myriad nature of the legislation is proving to be a challenge for industry.
Disposal companies ranging in size from the international — Waste Management Twin Cities, (which partners with Best Buy) — to the local — J.R.’s Appliance Disposal in Inver Grove Heights — are attempting to meet the demand.
An interesting third way that appears to be working is a Minneapolis-based electronics recycling company formed by three major players that manufacture your laptop, big screen TV and stereo.
The Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Co. (MRM, for short), a joint venture among Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba, is expanding across the country only a year after it opened up shop.
Formed in September 2007, it has already recycled 10 million pounds of discarded electronics in Minnesota. It claims to be the only private manufacturer’s organization to provide statewide comprehensive recycling, with 75 drop-off points.
The state likes the model; manufacturers (20 have signed up) like the efficiency.
Brad Moore, the Minnesota PCA director, said in a release that the company is helping industry meet new state requirements regarding electronic equipment disposal.
“MRM has played a key leadership role in organizing the manufacturing community to meet both its obligations and the cycling needs of the citizens of Minnesota,” Moore said. “We are pleased with MRM’s effort in being the first manufacturer organization to offer convenient recycling services to citizens in all parts of our state, and hope it works to decrease illegal dumping of end-of-life electronic products.”
Several companies handle electronics disposal. You can find Minnesota’s list here.
Laws on electronics vary
Each state has its own laws for disposal of electronic gear (if it has such laws at all). MRM’s new website attempts to sort through the various rules on registration, reporting and collection requirements. Minnesota, for example, requires manufacturers of some video displays (TVs, laptops, computer monitors) to recycle them based on yearly targets. For the year beginning July 1, 2008, manufacturers must recycle 80 percent of the total weight of the products they sell here each year.
According to MRM, there are 16 new state laws coming on the books in either 2009 or 2010, making compliance an even trickier business for manufacturers.
MRM President David Thompson said part of the solution is in economies of scale. “While individual company programs are effective in servicing business customers and have played a role in the moving the collection of consumer electronics forward, they cannot provide a viable, long-term comprehensive solution to the challenges faced by the electronics industry,” he said. MRM is expanding into Connecticut, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
According to one watchdog group, the United States generated 2.6 million tons of “e-waste” in 2005, but only 12.5 percent of the electronics were recycled. In February, the television industry will switch to all-digital signals, making many TVs obsolete if they don’t add a converter box.
“We’re estimating that millions of old TVs will be dumped, some of which contain as much as 10 pounds of lead,” said Ted Smith, chairman of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition.