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Editorial: Recycling keeps e-waste from leaking heavy metals


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Hoosiers are starting to do their part to keep unwanted electronic products — known as e-waste — from the solid waste stream as outlined under a state law that’s now been in effect for three years.

But more can be and needs to be done.

The idea behind the Electronic Waste Law is to protect the environment from heavy metals including lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium leaking out while buried in landfills across the state. Other benefits include ensuring that valuable materials such as gold, copper, aluminum and steel are recycled and extending the life of landfills.

The law makes it illegal for anyone to dispose of e-waste in a landfill, and nearly every county has at least one approved disposal site. Locally, the program is operated by the Johnson County Recycling District. Residents can bring nearly all electronic items and almost anything with an electrical cord to the office at 900 Arvin Road, Suite A, Franklin.

Most items are accepted for free, but there is a charge   for TVs. Details are available on the district’s website, recyclejohnsoncounty.com.

Local Goodwill stores also accept computers, printers, monitors, external drives, keyboards, fax machines, scanners, speakers and any other items related to computers from individuals.

One southern Indiana landfill’s experience offers evidence that perhaps more public education from the state and county levels could help boost compliance. The manager says that the landfill receives calls from people wanting to know about the law and that landfill workers continue to intercept e-waste dumped with other household trash headed to the landfill.

“We probably stop about 80 percent from reaching the landfill,” he said. But it could be better if the public were made more aware of the ban, he added.

But once an item makes it into the landfill, it’s there to stay because of safety issues. So the best remedy is removing items from trash in the first place and disposing of them properly.

The state’s Electronic Waste Law went into effect in 2009 after its passage by the General Assembly. Part of that law requires any company making televisions, computer monitors, laptops, notebooks and other video display devices to collect and recycle 60 percent, by weight, of what they make and sell in the state from households, small businesses and public schools.

According to an annual report prepared by Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the state’s 65 registered manufacturers recycled 21.7 million pounds of the 22.9 million pounds they were supposed to from April 1, 2010, to March 31, 2011, and recycled 24.5 million of the required 22.0 million pounds they were supposed to from April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012. Incentive programs put those manufacturers past the targeted goals.

Meredith Jones, director of the state’s e-waste program, said many Hoosiers have participated but more need to do so.

“Lack of awareness about the law and the program remain one of our biggest challenges,” she said.

Johnson County is offering a step toward better education and compliance by giving residents a chance to toss out their unwanted computers, printers, televisions and other e-waste through the recycling district’s ongoing collection program.

Recycling efforts are beginning to take hold. To be successful, though, individuals have to take the initiative and dispose of items appropriately, before they reach the landfill.

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