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Effort to Lift Electronics Ban in NC Landfills Stalls in Senate

North Carolinians generate thousands of pounds of electronics waste every year, and up until now a state program has facilitated the recycling of that material. (
North Carolinians generate thousands of pounds of electronics waste every year, and up until now a state program has facilitated the recycling of that material. (
June 8, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina companies and individuals for six years have participated in a program to recycle unwanted electronics to comply with a ban on electronics in landfills. On Tuesday, legislation that would reverse those efforts was scheduled for a vote in the state Senate but was removed from the calendar at the last minute.

While kicking your old television to the curb may seem like an innocuous deed, the mercury and other chemicals involved in its manufacturing present a danger to the health of groundwater supply, said Preston Peck, policy advocate for Toxic Free NC.

"We have -- for better, for worse -- become a society of convenience," he said. "We consume a lot, and items -- specifically electronics -- have become very cheap and disposable. If we're going to create these, then we need to create the infrastructure to safely dispose of these items as well."

The legislation was referred to a committee for further consideration. Currently electronics are recycled at drop-off sites throughout the state and by industries. Televisions, computers and other items are dismantled and separated into recyclable and toxic material.

Supporters of lifting the ban say e-cycling is too costly for industries to comply.

North Carolina is one of 25 states -- including neighboring South Carolina and Virginia -- with e-cycling laws. Dan Crawford, director of government relations for the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said lifting the ban on electronics would put a stop to a program with a proven track record of success.

"Everyone says it's been working, and this has been a really good program that's worked, and I think it's worked the way it was designed to work," he said. "A lot of people were shocked to see this a target of the Regulatory Reform Bill in the General Assembly."

Mercury found in the LCD screens of many electronics is a big concern, but many screens also include flame retardants that present a hazard when exposed to our groundwater and drinking water supply, Peck said.

"Many of these flame retardants are found to be very pervasive within our environment, once they leach into the environment," he said, "and the issue with landfills is you can have these chemicals that can leach into the ground and, therefore, surface water."

The state Department of Environmental Quality studied the issue earlier this year and recommended that lawmakers lift the landfill ban, basing its recommendation on a 2010 EPA study that finds that electronics can be safely disposed of in dumps.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC