electronic waste

A bill to improve e-waste collection

Dear Sam, 

I’ve attended a couple of the Tangletown e-waste education events. I was astounded to hear that such a small percentage of e-waste gets recycled and managed properly. Can you tell me about the bill the MN legislature is currently considering?

Sincerely,

Maria

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Dear Maria,

Yes. Currently, only about 25% of electronic waste (e-waste) is being recycled and disposed of properly. The rest of it is sitting in landfills or is being incinerated. There are so many metals and plastics in electronics that can be recycled if a program is adequately funded and put into place.  

Enter the bill currently being debated in the Minnesota legislature: HF 3566(Hollins)/SF3940 (Kupec). This bill would place more of the responsibility for the safe disposal and recycling of electronics waste on the manufacturers and retailers of the electronics. The legislation would create a nation-leading program to provide consumers with free, convenient collection and recycling of e-waste devices and batteries.

Why do we need a program like this? There are three main reasons. First, there are a lot of precious metals (an estimated 78 million pounds!) in electronics being thrown out. Those metals are worth a lot of money as they are crucial to the infrastructure needed for the renewable energy transition away from fossil gas. If salvaged, these precious metals are estimated to be worth about $3 billion annually! Second, improper disposal of electronics is unhealthy. 70% of landfill lead pollution comes from discarded electronics. And, as I’m sure you have heard, throwing batteries in the trash can lead to fires at landfills and in hauling trucks. These fires are not only dangerous but toxic and polluting. The new program would include battery recycling. And third, a comprehensive collection and recycling program would create over 1,700 jobs in our state. 

As of April 2, the bill has passed its first committees in both the House and the Senate and was reportedly very well received. The bill is now headed to the Ways and Means Committee. You can read the full text here. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) and Recycling Electronics for Climate Action (RECA) are two advocacy groups that strongly favor this bill and have support campaigns currently going on. MCEA has even created a simple online form to help you contact your representatives and ask them to support 100% electronic waste collection in Minnesota. Changing personal behaviors around the use and disposal of electronics is important. In addition, new legislation that updates how we collect and recycle waste from electronics will play an important role in our economy and protecting our environment.

Sustainably,

Sam

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