Lifting electronics ban will help protect the environment, ease burden on local governments

Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 12:00am

The General Assembly should lift the state’s ban on placing electronics in landfills, as it will help to protect the environment and ease the financial burden on local governments, a leader with the state environmental agency said Wednesday.

North Carolina since 2011 has prohibited placing televisions, computers, scanners, monitors, video displays and printer-scanner-fax machines in solid waste landfills. Since the ban went into effect, nearly all counties in North Carolina have implemented electronics recycling programs.

Tom Reeder, the agency’s assistant secretary, told the N.C. Environmental Review Commission the state is recommending lifting the ban for environmental and economic reasons.

“From an environmental perspective, th​e federal government agrees it’s safe to place televisions and other electronics into lined landfills. There will be no harm to the environment,” Reeder said. “Also, many local governments have complained that they simply can’t afford the rising costs associated with recycling electronics.”

Reeder also stated that due to the recycling requirement and associated fee, many televisions and electronics are being illegally abandoned in places where they can impact the environment, such as dumpsters and open fields, or may be shipped to developing countries that have no environmental protections in place for their disposal.

The state’s recommendation is in response to a requirement by the General Assembly in 2015 that the state environmental agency study electronics recycling in North Carolina. 

The study revealed that the cost of recycling these electronics has increased substantially due in large part to the sharp decline in the value of metals worldwide and the impacts that declining oil prices are having on plastics recycling. As a result, Reeder said his agency has heard complaints from many local governments about the financial impact recycling televisions and other electronics has had on their budgets.

Moreover, the impacts of lifting the ban would be minimal because electronics only constitute 0.2 percent of the overall waste stream in North Carolina.

Commission members indicated the issue could be addressed in regulatory reform bill during the short session.