Proposal supports companies that recycle computers

The bill would add a fee to the cost of electronic gizmos.
Friday, April 27, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:27 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Congress is considering a bill that would add a recycling fee to the purchase price of electronic goods in an effort to stop hazardous disposal practices and build a national infrastructure for recycling these items.

The proposed National Computer Recycling Act, House Resolution 233, which was introduced on Jan. 4, would impose a fee of $10 or less on products containing “one or more liquid crystal displays, cathode ray tubes or circuit boards,” or other electronics containing a significant amount of hazardous materials.

Recycle Your Electronics

Where: Mid-Missouri Recycling, 6104 Brown Station Road. What may be recycled: Computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, fax machines, DVD players, CD players and audiovisual equipment. Hours: Drop-off bins are available 24/7 at the recycler’s location, but the company discourages dropping off items that have personal data on them after 6 p.m. Cost: Free. Contact: 474-39977 or For more information

The proposed bill would provide grants to organizations that incur these costs when they collect and process computers, reuse or resell computers, or extract raw materials from computers, monitors or other similar equipment.

Electronics must be recycled in ways that capture their hazardous substances such as lead, mercury, chromium or cadmium that would pollute the air or ground water if incinerated or dumped in landfills with ordinary household refuse. Computer monitors with cathode ray tubes, for instance, contain as much as four pounds of lead each, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

While the Columbia Public Works Department does not track the percentage of electronic waste in household trash, the EPA estimates 1 percent to 4 percent of all household waste is electronic. Only one out of every nine personal computers made this year will likely be recycled, according to Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources.

Because the Public Works Department does not recycle electronic equipment or collect it with household trash, the city’s Web site directs residents to dispose of electronic materials with Mid-Missouri Recycling, a recycling business. It and similar companies would receive grant money under the proposed law.

Cathy Rupard, a Mid-Missouri Recycling employee, says that for the bill to be effective, recyclers have to be scrutinized for legitimacy before receiving grant money.

“There are a lot of sham recyclers out there. People who say they will recycle your equipment, strip the parts they want and dispose of the rest,” Rupard said. “If there is someway to make sure that it is going to be handled by legitimate businesses or entities than it would be a good thing.”

In July 2006, Mid-Missouri Recycling eliminated the drop-off fee for televisions and computer monitors, Rupard said. It wanted to increase the amount of all electronics it received. From July to August 2006 the group collected more than 80,000 pounds, about four semi-truck loads, of junked equipment.

By increasing the volume of trash it received, the recycling company hoped to be able to gather more information about the electronic recycling process.

Although recyclers earn money by selling parts to metal extractors, Rupard says that revenue generated from this is not significant incentive given the labor intensity of removing wires and disassembling equipment. While profit is ultimately the goal, she said, subsidies are needed to build a national infrastructure.

U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., would not say how he would vote on the bill.

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