Make e-waste recycling better with more reuse

by Seattle Times editorial board

Washington's newly launched e-waste law provides for free recycling of televisions, computers, computer monitors and portable or laptop computers. Make a good thing better with House Bill 1522, which seeks to maximize allowable recycling and reuse of gleaned parts and working equipment.

January 2009 and an era begins that giddy people imagined they would never live to see. The chance to clean out the closet and garage and get rid of those old TVs and computers for free.

E-Cycle Washington is here and working.

The recycling program, inspired by the environmental community and created by the Legislature, is powered by manufacturers, processors and nonprofit organizations, and overseen by the state Department of Ecology.

Even as the program is launched, there is an effort in Olympia to make a good thing better. House Bill 1522, introduced by Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, would expand opportunities for registered collectors of electronic waste to sell or donate products in working order or glean parts for reuse.

For most of the long list of eligible users of the program — households, small businesses, schools and school districts, small governments and charities — the opportunity to recycle at no charge is all that matters. Expanding recycling to include a boarder definition of reuse would not raise consumer eyebrows.

For people who track recycling activity, the concern is maintaining control over the end destination of those TVs and computers, whose parts can contain lead, cadmium and mercury. Searing news accounts of toxic recycling dumps in poor, distant nations drive concerns.

The intent of House Bill 1522 is to maximize a good idea. Legislators and regulators are working on revised language to ensure accountability and allow reuse of salvageable material and equipment.

Washington's e-waste law provides for free recycling of televisions, computers, computer monitors and portable or laptop computers. Not included are keyboards, computer mice and printers.

This state is one of 18 in some phase of operating or implementing an electronic-recycling program. Individual states took up the cause after attempts to create a national e-cycling program were trashed.

Here in Washington, the Department of Ecology estimates 25 million pounds of electronic refuse will be turned in during 2009, about four pounds for every person in the state. Make a good idea better by maximizing the concept of recycling and reuse. If the language of House Bill 1522 is not yet perfect, make it so.

E-Cycle works to keep old electronics out of landfills and off the sides of the road, where e-waste was routinely dumped.

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