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New York City E-Waste Recycled, Local Law Proposed

More than 8,000 pounds of computers, printers, cell phones, cables, and other electronics equipment were recycled in a single day.
New Yorkers turned Lincoln Center into a giant electronics recycling and swap center over the weekend.

More than 8,000 pounds of computers, printers, cell phones, cables and other electronics equipment -- that would otherwise go into garbage trucks and landfills -- passed through the center Sunday, according to New York City Council Member Gale Brewer.

The event, organized and supported by the Lower East Side Ecology Center and the Upper West Side Recycling Center, also provided a forum for supporters of a municipal Electronics Recycling and Reuse Act.

The act, which is headed for a council vote, would require electronics manufacturers to recycle their own products or make them available for reuse through a free "take-back" system. Brewer, who sponsored the event, said the amount of electronics recycled in one day shows a "tremendous need" for city legislation creating a convenient and reliable recycling system.

Nearly 34,000 tons of electronic waste and small appliances traveled through New York City's waste stream in 2004, according to the Waste Characterization Study undertaken by the Department of Sanitation. New York City is paying $191 per ton of waste, or $6.4 million a year, to export these materials to neighboring states for disposal in landfills or incineration in Newark, N.J.

"We're paying a lot of money for disposing of these products -- and in the process we are paying an environmental price by polluting our ground water and air," said Christine Datz-Romero, director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said, "For every piece of equipment that goes the way of the landfill or incinerator, we're poisoning ourselves and our environment."

Brewer, who chairs the New York City Council Technology Committee, said the bill would require manufacturers to reduce hazardous materials -- like lead, mercury and cadmium in cathode ray tubes, circuit boards and other electronic components.

The Consumer Electronics Association prefers a national recycling policy rather than municipal policies that create a patchwork of regulations that manufacturers and retailers must navigate.

The National Electronics Recycling Information Clearinghouse (NERIC) recently released a study saying that consumers would spend $25 million annually, or $224 million through 2012, for recycling without a national policy.

Parker Brugge, CEA senior director and environmental counsel said that money should not be squandered on state-level recycling costs, including enforcement on out-of-state electronics, state and local study initiatives, compliance with multiple and divergent state requirements and administrative and redundant state programs.