Lawmakers examining electronics, recycling

PARKERSBURG – There is a move afoot in the West Virginia legislature to lift a ban on the disposal of electronic devices in landfills.

A West Virginia Senate committee last week voted unanimously to lift the ban. The proposed legislation would reverse part of a bill passed in 2010, effective the first of 2011, which banned disposal of electronics with screens larger than 4 inches in a landfill. Twenty states have similar legislation. Almost all electronics with screens contain toxic chemicals or metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Laws regulating their disposal are intended to keep those toxic chemicals from leaching into groundwater.

As of Jan. 1, 2011, local trash haulers began picking up the old electronics to be taken to approved recycling facilities. The state Solid Waste Management Board has been working since 2002 to divert electronic scrap from landfills through various collection efforts.

Wood County was the first county in the state to implement a plan for the disposal of the electronics, which primarily consist of unwanted television sets and computers.

John Reed, Wood County Solid Waste Authority director, said he had not seen the legislation but was informed the issue was going to be raised in this session.

“I don’t know how serious it is, or whether it will make it through or not, but it really isn’t a problem here,” Reed said.

There is a contract in place here with Electronic Recycling Services, Bellaire, Ohio, to take the electronics picked up by the trash haulers. The service is provided at no charge, Reed said.

“If they have more than one-fourth of the truck filled with television sets, they do charge by the pound, but that would be very unusual. We hope to get more computers, anyone with an unwanted computer can take it to the Parkersburg Recycling Center. If they have 75 percent computers, the whole shipment is free,” Reed said.

“The center is taking them at no charge from the trash haulers who are picking them up from customers. We implemented the system right after the legislation took effect in 2011. Speaking for Wood County, it’s not necessary to change anything, but I can see there might be repercussions created for some of the smaller counties that don’t have trash hauling services,” Reed said. “A lot of people in the smaller counties take their trash to the landfills themselves, it may not be practical for them to take the televisions to a recycling center that could be a long distance from their location,” Reed said. Those counties may still have problems with illegal dumping of those items, Reed said.

Wood County also offers periodic recycling, and clean up projects for the public which often include old electronics.

Greg Sayers, executive director with the state Association of Solid Waste Haulers, said he does not anticipate the proposed legislation will make it out of this session.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)