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Main | Insulation: Unlocking The Keys To An Energy Efficient Home »

New York State Has Now Made It Illegal For Curbside Pickup of Most Home Electronics

New York State has now made it illegal for residents to take their personal electronics devices, with a few exceptions, out for curbside pickup. The law went into effect earlier this year, but I just came across it online, and haven’t seen it talked about in the mainstream media, so I thought I’d share what I learned.

The new law – the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act – prohibits taking the following items to the curb:

  • televisions
  • cathode ray tubes
  • computers, including:
    • laptops  
    • desktops
    • tablet
    •  e-readers
  • computer peripherals, including :
    • monitors
    • electronic keyboards
    • electronic mice or similar pointing devices
    • fax machines, document scanners, and printers (only those intended for use with a computer and weighing less than 100 lbs.)
    • any cables, cords, or wiring accompanying a computer peripheral
  • small electronic equipment, including:
    • VCRs
    • digital video recorders (DVRs)
    • portable digital music players
    • DVD players (including projectors with DVD player capabilities intended for home-use)
    • digital converter boxes
    • cable or satellite receivers (including digital media receivers)
    • electronic or video game consoles (including both handheld devices and those intended for use with a video display device)
    • any cables, cords, or wiring accompanying the small electronic equipment.
  • small scale servers

While none of these things can go in the regular trash anymore, the law allows multiple ways to dispose of them include manufacturer take-back programs.

All manufacturers are required to take back all electronics – free of charge – that they sell to New York State consumers. There are exceptions that can be charged, including businesses with 50 or more full-time employees and non-profits with 75 or more full-time employees.

There are other circumstances where fees may apply, such as premium services, which include: equipment and data security services; refurbishment for reuse by the consumer; and other custom services such as at home collection (other than mail-back programs); and data wiping.

To find the manufacturer of an electronics product that you want to recycle, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provides a list of the manufacturers.

There are several options for take-back options – both directly to a manufacturer or through a retailer. Through the DEC’s list, you can find manufacturers’ websites that specify how to recycle their products, including collection sites and mail-back programs.

For mail-back programs, the manufacturer is responsible for covering the shipping costs. The manufacturer may also provide the packaging material free at its discretion.

Also an interesting note, if you purchase a piece of electronics from a manufacturer and you want to recycle an older version of that item (for example, you buy a new television from one manufacturer and want to recycle your old television from another manufacturer. You can recycle the old television with either manufacturer.)

Another potential recycling option is through a retailer, which has the option to work with a manufacturer to provide a free in-store drop off program for consumers. Some retailers may even opt to collect electronics that they don’t sell but are still covered under the law. Check with your favorite electronics retailer for recycling options.

Other recycling options include dropping off at acceptable non-profits organizations (which can be found through a manufacturer’s website), municipal facilities, and community collection events.

Also a very important thing to keep in mind before taking your electronics (especially computers or any device that contains your personal information) to a recycler, is to wipe your data.

The DEC warns that:

Consumers should erase all personal and confidential data before sending it for recycling or reuse. Reformatting your hard drive or deleting files does not destroy your data.  

Manufacturers are required to provide information on their public education websites on how consumers can destroy the data.

A manufacturers may also offer data wiping services as part of its electronic waste acceptance program, but may charge a fee for this premium service.

If you encounter any problems or resistance from a manufacturer about accepting back any electronics for recycling or reuse, the DEC recommends that you contact the agency either by email at ewaste@dec.ny.gov or telephone: (518) 402-8706.

There are also a lot of electronics not covered under this law, including:

  • cameras or video cameras
  • thermostats
  • portable or stationary radios
  • household appliances such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, ovens, ranges, and dishwashers
  • any type of telephone
  • portable digital assistant or similar device
  • calculators
  • global positioning system (GPS) receivers or similar navigation devices
  • a server other than a small-scale server
  • any motor vehicle or any part of a motor vehicle
  • equipment that is functionally or physically part of a larger piece of equipment intended for use in an industrial, research, developmental or commercial setting.
  • security or anti-terrorism equipment
  • monitoring and control instruments or systems
  • handheld transceivers
  • a cash register or retail self-checkout system
  • commercial medical equipment that contains within it a cathode ray tube
  • a flat panel display or similar video display device that is not separate from a larger piece of equipment
  • all medical devices as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For pieces of electronic equipment that are not covered under the law, the DEC recommends that NYS residents consider local municipal collection programs.

Some municipalities and transfer stations do offer household hazardous waste recycling collection programs that do accept electronic waste not covered under the law. To be sure, you should check with your local municipality.

 Also, under a separate law, all wireless telephone providers that offer phones for sale in NYS must also accept those phones back for reuse or recycling.

Fines for NYS household residents that break the new law can be up to $100 per violation.

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