Monday, March 10, 2008

Electronics Recyling in NYC - What's That About?

As the fate of a City Council bill requiring electronic waste recycling rests on the tip of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s pen, many New Yorkers have no idea where and how to dispose of unwanted electronic items, many of which contain environmental hazards like lead and mercury.
Sabrina Brown, for example, has never heard of “e-waste” recycling.
Ms. Brown, 20, a student from Richmond Hill, Queens, said she had three cellphones, an old laptop computer, an old television, two old radios and three old cameras sitting in her room.
“I don’t know where to take them,” she said.

Mr. Bloomberg has expressed strong opposition to a bill passed by the City Council last month that would fine New Yorkers $100 for throwing electronics in the garbage and would require manufacturers to take back their products and those made by companies that are no longer in business.

The Lower East Side Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental group, holds monthly electronic waste drop-off events. The center also works with Build It Green! NYC, a nonprofit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials, which accepts unwanted electronics at its warehouse in Astoria, Queens, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Per Scholas is a Bronx-based organization that accepts old electronics and refurbishes computers to distribute in low-income communities and to schools. Some retailers, including Staples, accept old electronics at their stores for recycling.

Last year, the Lower East Side Ecology Center collected 118 tons of discarded electronics, more than in any previous year, though the center also held twice as many collection events as it had in the past.

The Sanitation Department, which began its electronics drop-off events in 2004, saw a steady increase in its collection through the first three years. But the number of tons collected dipped to 295 in 2007 from 309 in 2006, though the number of people who provided something for recycling increased. According to a Sanitation Department study of waste disposed in 2004 and 2005, discarded electronics made up 0.64 percent of the city’s trash. But even a small amount of such waste can produce contamination, said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Carey Pulverman, the project manager for the Lower East Side Ecology Center, spends much of her day on the phone with people looking for ways to get rid of old electronics. “The thing is, people don’t want to go out of their way to do it,” she said. “Mostly, it’s them trying to talk to me about why they need their stuff picked up.”

Full Story, NYTimes

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