Wash. residents recycle 100M pounds of electronics

In the two and a half years since the electronics recycling program called E-Cycle Washington began, consumers in Washington have recycled more than 100 million pounds of unwanted TVs, computers and monitors, according to Washington State Department of Ecology officials. That’s equal to the weight of five Space Needles or a fleet of 181 fully loaded Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Larger and bulkier TVs make up 62 percent of the 3.3 million pounds of electronics coming into the program on a monthly average. Consumers upgrading to flat-screen technology is most likely the major contributor to the high volume of TVs compared to other devices being recycled.

A 2006 state law required manufacturers who sell TVs, computers and monitors in Washington fund and operate a free-of-charge program for recycling these products.

“Electronics manufacturers responded to that challenge by providing responsible end-of-life recycling of electronic products for the citizens of Washington state at no charge to the consumer,” said John Friedrick, executive director of the manufacturers’ organization called the Washington Materials Management and Financing Authority.

The Washington Department of Ecology oversees the program. Ted Sturdevant, Ecology director said, “In this electronic age more and more of our waste contains toxics like lead and mercury, as well as valuable resources that don’t belong in our landfills.”

Sturdevant credited electronics manufacturers for stepping up and providing a convenient and efficient collection system. He also credited Washington residents for once again proving their enthusiastic recycling ethic.

E-Cycle Washington began collecting electronics on Jan. 1, 2009, and has since established itself as a nationally recognized program and an example of a successful product take-back program. Ecology estimates that an average of 6 to 7 pounds of solid waste is generated each day by every Washington resident. E-Cycle Washington is helping to decrease the portion of this waste that goes into landfills and increase the amount recycled.

Washington residents are recycling electronics through E-Cycle Washington at an annual rate of 5.9 pounds per person. “That’s a good rate,” said Sturdevant, “but we hope to do even better by increasing public awareness about this free program.”

Ecology recently expanded the E-Cycle Washington program to include tablet computers and electronic book readers, also called e-readers.

The vast majority of the electronics brought to E-Cycle Washington collection sites are processed for recycling in the United States. Ecology monitors recyclers that participate in E-Cycle Washington. This assures the greatest recycling levels, reduces disposal and ensures that any exported materials are managed safely.

There are more than 250 E-Cycle Washington collection sites and services across the state where consumers, schools, small businesses, small government organizations and charities can drop off unwanted electronics for recycling at no cost. For a list of locations in your area go to http://www.ecyclewashington.org .

In a March 2010 analysis of Washington and Oregon’s E-Cycle programs, the Northwest Product Stewardship Council interviewed stakeholders regarding net new jobs created as a result of these programs. Processors in Washington state reported hiring 79 new employees directly attributable to the E-Cycle program.

In addition, recycling electronics saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Recycling the 100 million pounds of electronics through E-Cycle Washington saved 31,448 tons (metric tons of carbon equivalent) greenhouse gas emissions and more than 1.5 million BTU’s (British thermal units). This is equal to conserving 14,472 households’ annual energy consumption; 276,630 barrels of oil; or 12,489 gallons of gasoline.