Washington state requires manufacturers to recycle TVs, laptops

Electronic waste recycling takes a big step forward in Washington state.

Beginning New Year's Day, manufacturers are required to provide free recycling service for televisions as well as desktop and laptop computers and monitors. The service is offered to residents, schools, nonprofit groups, small businesses and local governments.

The program grew out of a bill passed by the 2006 state Legislature that makes manufacturers responsible for proper disposal and recycling of electronic products, many of which contain toxic materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury. About 200 sites have signed up to receive the materials.

The state Department of Ecology has certified four electronic waste processing firms -- two in Washington, one in Oregon and one in California -- to disassemble the electronic equipment into separate materials for reuse or safe disposal, including glass, plastic, metal and toxic chemicals. The program is designed in part to stem the flow of electronic waste to Third World countries, where it is often dismantled crudely, threatening the environment, public health and the health of workers.

Recycling and reusing electronic equipment also conserves natural resources and reduces the amount of energy required to make products from scratch, said Terri Thomas, a Thurston County Solid Waste education and outreach specialist.

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