Beginning Jan.1, 2009 consumers, small businesses, and other similar-sized government entities in Oregon and Washington State will be able to recycle 'e-cycle' much of their e-waste such as computers, monitors, and TVs though not others such as cellphones, mice, and printers. The TV e-cycling is well-timed with the analog-to-digital TV switch in February, 2009.
There are now 17 states with similar programs; the National Center for Electronics Recycling tracks such laws. It estimates that just under 50 percent of the US population is now covered by such measures.
They should be making a dent in the mountains of electronic garbage created in the U.S; in 2007, Americans generated about 232 million units of computer and TV-related E-waste, of which only 18 percent was recycled.
Washington State estimates that it will collect and process over 20 million pounds of electronic waste in the first year of operations; the state has about 6.4 million residents. It has set up network will include over 200 individual collection sites, in every county in the state and in every city or town with a population greater than 10,000.
Yet unlike in other states that have set up similar programs, such as California, where consumers must pay to dispose, Oregon's and Washington State's are paid for by manufacturers and free to consumers. Officials say that provision will give incentives to participate--Oregon also has a prod; beginning in 2010 it will be illegal to dump computers and TVs--which should drive up the volume of units recycled or reused.
The states also say they will closely monitor the programs to make sure the toxic boxes and pieces do not get dumped in places like China where e-waste disposal controls and methods are comparatively lax.
The Oregon and Washington State plans make sense because they adopt the polluter-pay principle, which if followed logically by manufacturers, will prod them to make more adaptable, longer lasting, and versatile products made of less nasty materials to limit waste and pollution. It should to kick them into making and reusing 'nonintelligent' items such as keyboards, keypads, and mice.
These laws, enacted in two of the most tech-savvy jurisdictions anywhere may also drive firms to go the next level (literally) and host and network host more of their solutions i.e. cloud computing and dumb terminals that spreads the core hardware to many more users. Hosted/cloud software can also help meet the same goals in tandem by reducing the need for complex shredder-bound hardware.
Another benefit from going these routes is lowered energy demand and fewer amounts of greenhouse gases and toxins from entering the atmosphere.
What would make sense for these programs and others is to follow the time-proven example of the auto industry--yes it has a few good practices--and offer trade-ins on old electronic goods. Bring in your dead cellphone, monitor, and printer and get a few bucks off. Or if they want to go to the next level, offer to pick these old items up when they deliver new ones ordered online or via contact centers and receive instant rebates.