Raleigh’s ahead of the curve as state bans electronics in landfills

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Legislation passed in the last General Assembly session added computers and televisions to the list of items no longer welcome at local landfills. The items join wood pallets, scrap tires, big appliances and used oil filters, which were banned in past years. The law takes effect in January 2011.

The good news for Raleigh residents is that the city has long exceeded the law’s requirements. The city already takes televisions and computers, as the law will require, but it also collects just about any other electronic discard you care to recycle. The state reserves the right to expand the landfill ban legislation to include these items in future, but if you live in Raleigh, you can do that already.

The new law brings several benefits. By capturing the lead, cadmium, mercury electronics hold before they enter our landfills, we limit the impact of harmful materials in our landfills. Because landfills have limited space, the ban will add life to the current facilities. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discarded electronics make up the nation’s fastest growing waste stream. Economically speaking, the work needed to recycle the units, scavenge salable components and harvest the glass, plastic and metals for reuse creates green jobs. On the environmental side, using recycled materials reduces the need to mine or manufacture new materials.

Unlike scrap tires and household appliances, where retailers charge an advance disposal fee at the time of purchase to pay for recycling, TV and computer manufacturers will finance the recycling effort. For much of the state, that means researching each unit’s manufacturer’s plans and locations to learn where and how they will collect your items. If you choose to go that route, the state has a website that will collect the information for the public.

You can visit the city website for electronic recycling for details, but here are a few of the basics.

Before you recycle any computers, you should clean the hard drive. No one else will do it after you drop off your item and if the data should fall into the wrong hands, neither the state nor the city are liable for any damages that may occur.

If you call (919) 996-6890, you can make an appointment for the city to come to your address and pick up your old computer plus peripheral items. Those include “devices that are normally attached to computers such as printers, scanners or external drives.” Don’t kick them to the curb early or someone else may come and get it without your permission.

If you prefer to drop off your items in person, a few locations are available. They’ll take “nearly any electronic device with a cord” but check out the list of acceptable items to be sure yours qualify. Televisions and computers are on the list. If they aren’t nearby, the city has a partnership with Eco Lube, which is located at 4901 Atlantic Avenue, but they will not accept large screen TVs at this location. (They’ll also take automotive fluids if you have any on hand that need recycling.)

If you want to recycle your TV, call the city to make an appointment for a bulk load pickup at no cost. If your set is a large screen model a fee may apply depending on its size. If it can’t be easily lifted into a truck, a fee may be charged.

So far, the new law doesn’t appear to being any changes for Raleigh residents, but Waste Reduction Specialist Linda Leighton is hopeful.

Part of the law establishes a fund for local governments willing to submit an approved plan to the state to receive televisions and computers locally. Although those funds would go the county, Leighton hopes that by working together there might be a way to reduce the “special load” fee the city charges residents for large pickups.

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