Researchers have blunt news for states with bans on disposing junk TVs in landfills:
They don’t work.
Their paper is one of the first to analyze how well e-waste laws have worked. The report looks at the effectiveness of these laws, which were adopted by 12 states before 2010. Oregon was the only Northwest state with such a law when the report was done, its authors wrote.
All 12 state laws share the same goal: keep all the hazardous chemicals in computers, monitors, TVs and other electronic waste out of the environment.
One of the report’s authors, Jean-Daniel M. Saphores, is with the University of California at Irvine. He presented the paper this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society and, according to the group’s report, Saphores summed up its findings this way:
“The patchwork of state-by-state or even city-by-city measures that have been adopted to deal with e-waste have been ineffective.”
The report drew its conclusions based on the authors’ survey of more than 3,000 U.S. households — focusing on their intentions for getting rid of old cell phone and their storage at home of junk TVs and plans for disposing of them.
With cell phones, the report’s conclusions were encouraging: a California law seems to be working at increasing mobile-phone recycling. And survey results showed people were inclined to recycle their small electronic devices.
With junk TVs, however, the existence of an e-waste ban has no statistically significant impact on people’s intention to trash or reuse junk TVs rather than recycle them.
That’s the story nationally. But what about in Oregon? The report itself didn’t single any states out in deciding whether they were part of the overall trend. but the head of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s e-waste program said she thinks Oregon’s disposal ban is working to keep TVs, computers and monitors out of landfills.
DEQ’s Loretta Pickerell says Oregon’s e-waste recycling facilities last year collected 26.7 million pounds of materials. That’s up from 25.9 million pounds in 2011.
Pickerell says disposal laws are going to be ineffective without a robust recycling program — a component to Oregon’s system. Consumers can drop off TVs, computers and monitors for free; the state requires manufacturers to pay the costs for such items that are sold within the state.
“If you ban something and don’t have another place for people to take it, then what are they going to do?” she notes.
Pickerell says she agrees that Oregon is among the states that could do better in one area the study points out: increasing public awareness that targets women and younger people.