County ahead of new 'e-waste' requirements
Starting July 1, Minnesota residents will no longer be able to put televisions and computer monitors in the trash, according to state law. But Hubbard County has been diverting its so-called "e-waste" since July 1, 2005, according to Vern Massie,...
Starting July 1, Minnesota residents will no longer be able to put televisions and computer monitors in the trash, according to state law.
But Hubbard County has been diverting its so-called "e-waste" since July 1, 2005, according to Vern Massie, solid waste administrator.
The law was supposed to go into effect a year ago, Massie explained, so the county was ready and started recycling the monitors then.
Removing television and computer monitors from the waste stream has been a priority because they contain up to eight pounds of lead and can cause environmental problems if discarded with regular garbage, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
State Rep. Brita Sailer (DFL-Park Rapids) had hoped the one-year extension would give state officials time to help counties offset their costs, but those efforts failed.
"Hubbard County is unique among counties," Sailer said.
Massie reported that from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2005, the county has recycled 45 tons of computer components and televisions and spent $4,490 to recycle them.
There are bins at both the Southern and Northern Transfer Stations, he said.
The county contracted with the Hubbard County Development Achievement Center for the recycling and, because the e-waste is shipped by weight, DAC staff are dismantling a lot of what comes in.
Rick Zeller, who is in charge of recycling for the Hubbard County DAC, said there are "good jobs" for clients in dismantling consoles and removing components before they are shipped to Bemidji. Right now, it is part time, but Zeller expects more work as time goes on.
Massie concurred. "It is a new frontier like recycling when we started," he said. The county added $5 per household to the recycling assessment on residents' property taxes for 2006.
Massie expects the county could collect about 100 tons at a cost of about $90,000 this year.
But, he also believes that, like household hazardous waste, disposal will peak and then level off.
Most other counties, Massie noted, are charging anywhere from $10 to $30 or more for a TV or computer monitor. "Some charge by the pound, but most fees are based on screen size," he said, adding some counties are charging $10 for the smaller ones, under 27 inches, and as much as $20 or $30 for the large screens.
"So $5 is a bargain," Massie said.
Sailer explained that while she was not a member of a task force convened for that purpose, she sat in on most of their meetings. Members included two county solid waste administrators from northwestern Minnesota, representatives of the Association of Minnesota Counties and retailers, she said.
The idea was to pattern disposal of monitors after household hazardous waste and NiCad battery recycling models in which consumers pay slightly more when purchasing items and the manufacturers contribute to recycling costs.
"These are two examples that are working," Sailer said. "The intent is to have manufacturers take care of the problems they created."
In other words, she explained, the approach was "if you sell one in the state, you recycle one."
According to Sailer, although the task force came up with recommendations amenable to counties and some larger retailers, including Best Buy (a Minnesota-based company), at the last minute, other large manufacturers held up approval.
They succeeded in lobbying with a "trust me approach," promising they would come to counties and pick up electronic waste.
"The task force was wanting to promote small businesses collecting those things," Sailer said.
"So there was no agreement and counties are left dealing with everything without help from manufacturers," she said.
"It was very disappointing, but the issue will be back for discussion again."