Computers, cell phones, televisions, and monitors are toxic. And yet for so long, we just threw them on the curb with our other garbage.
As of January 1, though, you can no longer do that. A new state law requires E-waste be recycled, meaning that you will either have to wait for a municipal E-waste collection day or find a place to take your old machines. The law covers monitors, laptops, computers, and televisions, but not cell phones, DVD players, or VCRs.
Residents will have to take the items to a dropoff point, such as a county or municipal recycling center or to an electronics retail store. Some communities conduct periodic curbside E-waste pickup dates or set up collections at one site. On the other hand, Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army, which have stores in Mercer and Burlington counties, usually will take old electronics.
The Electronic Waste Recycling Act banning the disposal of electronic devices and component parts as solid waste was signed into law in 2008 and has been effective since 2009. The law requires that electronics manufacturers and producers pay a $5,000-a-year registration fee, while requiring that electronics sellers post information in stores as to where to recycle computers, monitors, laptops, and televisions.
But until January 1 residents were not obligated to listen. What to do with old computers depended on your municipality. Most would collect discarded electronics with the regular weekly trash pickup.
But technology turns over quickly these days, and the clamor for new electronics generates piles of dangerous trash.
“Many people don’t realize that their television sets and computers are veritable compendiums of the periodic table,” says Reed Gusciora, a Democratic Assemblyman from the 15th Legislative District and co-sponsor of the 2008 bill. Circuit boards, batteries, and liquid crystal displays, he says, contain chemicals like lead, mercury, cadmium, lithium, phosphorous coatings, bismuth, and PVC plastics, which are as dangerous in the ground as they are in your hands.
As those piles of E-junk sit out in the elements over time, they break down. Chemicals seep into the ground, get flushed away by rain, and end up contaminating drinking water, ecosystems, and wildlife.
With the residential disposal aspect of the E-recycling law now in place it is up to residents and businesses to find a place for their old equipment. In Mercer County there is no dedicated E-waste collection site yet. The county periodically opens the John T. Dempster Fire School at Bakers Basin/Lawrence Station Road so that residents can drop off their old machines. Mercer has three Saturday dates set for this year — March 26, June 11, and October 1 — to collect computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, stereos, televisions, and microwaves.
The Middlesex County Improvement Authority does have a dedicated E-waste collection site: Sims Recycling Solutions Inc. at 401 Mill Road in Edison. Residents can drop off electronics (except for microwaves) at Sims every first Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and every third Monday from noon to 4 p.m. Sims also accepts VCRs, phones, irons, fluorescent lamps and bulbs, and thermostats and thermometers that contain mercury.
There is no charge to county residents. Call 732-745-4170, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.