The group of states that mandate e-waste recycling has a very notable new member. Earlier this summer, New York Gov. David Paterson signed the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act into law. New York joins 22 other states that have e-waste recycling laws on the books.
Under the terms of New York's new law, electronic manufacturers selling in the state must begin offering free e-waste collection programs for residents by April 1, 2011. Based on their market share in the state, the manufacturers must then recycle or re-use a certain percentage of the collected materials. Items that manufacturers are required to accept include computers, monitors, televisions, keyboards, printers, VCRs, DVD players and MP3 players. (For a complete list of the covered electronics and other details of the law, visit the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation's website at www.dec.ny.gov and click on the “Chemical and Pollution Control” link. After that, click on the “Waste Management” and then the “Special Wastes” links.)
Electronics manufacturers will have to submit annual reports to the state verifying their e-waste recycling efforts.
The law also includes a disposal ban. On April 1, 2011, manufacturers, retailers and owners or operators of e-waste collections sites are prohibited from sending electronics to landfills. Nearly three years later, on Jan. 1, 2015, the ban is extended to individuals and households.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental organization, was quick to voice its enthusiasm over the law. Calling the legislation “arguably the most progressive electronics recycling law in the country” on her blog (located at www.switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs), NRDC attorney Kate Sinding added, “[B]y shifting the costs of end-of-life waste management to the manufacturers, it encourages them to design products in the first instance that are easier — and hence cheaper — to recycle in the first place. Ultimately, this should result in products that have fewer toxic components, and more reusable and recyclable components, requiring less use of virgin materials.”
One immediate consequence of Paterson signing the e-waste bill into law was that a group of organizations representing electronics manufacturers dropped their lawsuit against New York City's e-waste recycling law. The group — which includes the Consumer Electronics Association and the Information Technology Industry Council — dropped the lawsuit, originally filed in the summer of 2009, because the new state law supersedes any related local ordinances.
The New York City law, which was passed in 2008, is similar to the state law in that it requires electronics manufacturers to establish e-waste recycling programs for city residents. The city law also requires manufacturers to provide pick-up service for items that weigh at least 15 pounds.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleged that the pick-up requirement was unduly burdensome to manufacturers and that the law was an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce. Last fall, local and state officials from 18 states sent a letter to the Consumer Electronics Association and the Information Technology Industry Council urging the two organizations to drop the lawsuit. “Your actions are a direct challenge to state and local government efforts to protect public health and the environment,” the letter said.
As part of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs and city officials have engaged in discussions about how to implement a satisfactory e-waste recycling program. On her blog, Sinding of the NRDC said those discussions have been productive. “We hope (and have every reason to believe) that these good discussions will continue, as the need for meaningful e-waste collection opportunities in [New York City] will persist, albeit now under the terms of the state law … ,” she wrote. “All sides deserve congratulations for the hard work and good faith they brought to the settlement table — elements that augur well for New York state's nascent e-waste program.”