would keep 'e-waste' out of state's landfills
Lead lurking inside computer monitors, TVs triggers debate
By Aileo Weinmann
Lansing State Journal
Legislation could ban most TVs and computer monitors
from Michigan dumps to reduce pollution starting in 2006.
Cathode ray tubes, or CRTs, are the guts inside a standard
television or computer monitor. An average CRT has 15
pounds to 20 pounds of lead, according to Garrett Jones,
sales manager at Great Lakes Electronics Recycling, a
That lead - plus smaller amounts of mercury, cadmium
and other toxic metals - is what state Rep. Chris Kolb,
D-Ann Arbor, wants to keep from polluting the land, air
Ingested lead causes brain damage, and researchers say
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards prove CRTs
leak lead from landfills.
"Right now, we're throwing hazardous waste into
nonhazardous landfills," Kolb said. "The future
cost is lead leaching through the air, water and soil.
We need to look at how to dispose and recycle these materials."
Kolb's bill has passed the House and is in the Senate.
Another bill awaiting a House vote would ban CRT incineration.
Michigan is among 29 states considering e-waste legislation.
Maine, Massachusetts, California and Minnesota already
ban CRTs from landfills.
California's law is the first to ban e-waste from export
to foreign countries with looser environmental protections,
a problem dubbed by critics as the dirty little secret
of the high-tech revolution.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, spurred
by Kolb's legislation, formed a task force to study the
broader issue of e-waste, which is "practically anything
that plugs in and beeps at you," said Lucy Doroshko,
a DEQ recycling specialist.
An advance disposal fee, similar to that collected when
new tires are sold, is one idea. Funding, logistics, educating
the public and regulation all are unanswered questions,
Estimates vary on total e-waste, but technological advances
prompt consumers to push aside old TVs and computers at
increasing rates. While as much as three-quarters of old
electronic equipment sits idly in attics, basements and
garages , owners eventually let it go.
Some experts predict 500 million U.S. computers are bound
for the waste stream by 2007, accounting for 1.6 billion
pounds of lead. That's roughly equivalent to the weight
of 250,000 Hummer H2 trucks.
The DEQ task force is due to provide its recommendations
in July, but Kolb said he's targeting CRTs now because
they contain large quantities of lead and can be easily
sorted out of the waste stream.
But Dan Batts, president of the Michigan Waste Industries
Association, said the proposal is premature.
"I think we've got the cart out ahead of the horse
here in doing an all-out ban," he said.
Batts also questioned whether research actually proves
that lead leaches from electronics in landfills.
Martha Knorek, Ingham County's solid waste coordinator,
said long lines at semi-annual electronics recycling collection
sites demonstrate a huge demand for electronics disposal
in mid-Michigan. The next local collection is scheduled
for May 15, with fees possible.
In Clinton, Kalamazoo and Oakland counties, recycling
centers offer semi-annual collections, with some charging
Recycle Ann Arbor accepts electronics year-round for
$5 to $25 per item.
Computer manufacturers offer mail-in recycling programs
with fees generally around $30. Some also offer vouchers
for buying new computers.