Proposed bill would give local lawmakers power to dump toxic electronics in landfills

Proposed bill would give local lawmakers power to dump toxic electronics in landfills
Source: (KOLD)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A provision in the proposed Regulatory Reform bill would give cities in North Carolina the ability to bypass the state-wide ban on electronic products in landfills.

These electronics include older “tube TVs," a product becoming widely unused in America and are frequently discarded. CRT television sets contain cathode ray tubes and a wide variety of dangerous toxins, while the main problem with disposing newer flat screen TVs is the lithium contained inside.

In 2010, the rapidly growing volume of these older television sets within North Carolina landfills led to the passing of a law that prohibited the disposal of televisions, computers, monitors, printers, scanners, and other electronics. If the proposed Regulatory Reform bill is passed, local governments could possibly undo this law in their district.

Roger Shew, a UNCW professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences believes that these electronics should remain banned, especially tube TVs because they "have more lead as well as a little mercury, cadmium, and beryllium. Obviously, these are things you don’t want in leachate in a landfill.”

“Just because throwing it in the landfill is the easiest thing to do doesn’t make it the right thing to do. At a minimum, they should study this issue more before passing it.” Shew explains. “We need to be able to repurpose, recycle, or better still make it easy to replace these items.”

Stephen Crafts, an E-Waste Recycler at locally owned Island Computers, provides a service that recycles unwanted electronics, including CRT television sets. Crafts takes apart electronics and determines whether products can still work, be reused, or if there are hazardous materials.

However, Crafts does not open CRT televisions, instead he takes them straight to the New Hanover County Recycling plant. He notes that there are plenty of useful materials within these TVs such as copper, lead glass, and circuit boards, but that the cathode tube can easily break and mercury gas would effectively leak out.

While a major negative effect of this provision would be on the environment, Crafts points out that a bad business result would occur for his own customers.

“The only big negativity that I can see come into play is when they start requiring a fee," Crafts explains. “If I have to start paying to get rid of TVs or screens, we’re going to have to incorporate a price here.”

Joe Suleyman, Director of Environmental Management for New Hanover county, notes that in 2017, NHC residents discarded 569,000 lbs of cathode ray tube television sets. Suleyman also pointed out that even if the bill passes, he is determined to keep the program going because “it’s the right thing to do.”

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