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State agency supports legislation to repeal electronics ban

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 12:00am

Repealing a ban on placing electronics in landfills would enable North Carolinians to safely dispose of televisions and computers and reduce a huge financial burden on local governments.  

For those reasons, the state environmental agency is supporting recently introduced legislation that would lift the state’s ban on placing electronics in landfills.

Research from the EPA has shown that electronics can be safely disposed of in properly permitted municipal solid waste landfills. The agency has also heard from many local governments who are bearing an increased financial burden and simply can’t afford to manage the costs of recycling televisions and computers.

North Carolina in 2011 banned placing computers, televisions, scanners, monitors, video displays and printer-scanner-fax machines in solid waste landfills, and established a discarded electronics law.

The electronics law requires computer and television manufacturers to pay the state an annual registration fee and meet other recycling requirements. TV manufacturers, for instance, must annually recycle or arrange for the recycling of their market share of televisions that are collected in the state.

In 2015, the General Assembly required the state environmental department to study electronics recycling. The study found that market prices for commodities produced from electronics have been weak and have resulted in reduced demand for those commodities from electronics recyclers.

The recycling requirement and associated fees have also led some people to sidestep the law and illegally dump televisions and computers in open fields or dumpsters. Other times, electronics are shipped to developing countries with no laws in place for their safe disposal.

"Making lined, permitted solid waste landfills an acceptable disposal option is safer than running the risk that people will abandon electronic wastes in places where they can impact the environment," said Tom Reeder, assistant secretary for the state environmental agency.

Lifting the ban will have a minimal effect on the total weight of waste going into landfills since electronics make up 0.2 percent of the state’s solid waste stream, the report concluded.

The state Senate earlier this week voted for the regulatory reform bill, House Bill 169, that includes the electronics provision. The bill is now before the N.C. House of Representatives.