Chances are, many Americans received shiny, new gadgets for the holidays — meaning their old electronics will either collect dust in a closet somewhere or get tossed out.
These unwanted laptops, tablets and printers contribute to the enormous amount of electronic waste, or “e-waste,” that continually piles up in our landfills. According to the EPA, 3.4 million tons of tech gear was trashed in 2012, and unfortunately, only 12.5 percent of e-waste is currently recycled.
Not only this an environmental nightmare, e-waste also negatively affects our health. As states, “E-waste represents 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70 percent of overall toxic waste. The extreme amount of lead in electronics alone causes damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood and the kidneys.”
MORE: One Company’s Quest to Reduce Electronic Waste in Landfills
Without a federal mandate on e-waste, it’s up to individual states to take the lead. One such state is New York.
To combat this growing health and environmental threat, starting on Jan. 1, it will be illegal for New York state residents to toss out electronics on the curb along with their regular trash. This law encompasses just about all the electronic equipment that New Yorkers commonly own, such as computers, DVD players and televisions (see the full list here). Under the new law, residents will have to properly recycle their gizmos or pay a $100 fine per violation. (The state has different regulations for other electronic items such as cell phones and rechargeable batteries.)
“Electronic equipment, which often contains lead, mercury and cadmium, now makes up the largest and fastest growing component of the hazardous materials entering the waste stream,” Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia tells NY1.
New York already has the most comprehensive e-waste recycling law in the nation (it offers free collection and recycling for a whole slew of products), so this new law is just taking it a step further.
To help residents learn about the new e-waste law, the city of New York created a 30-second ad to play in taxi cabs and local channels.
It’s still legal to dump old electronics in a number of states, but the good news is that half of the states (see which ones on this map) have passed some kind of legislation for recycling on the disposal and recycling of electronics, and more states are considering similar laws.
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