Law will ease consumer recycling of electronic waste, keeping dangerous toxins out of Wisconsin’s air and water

MADISON — Consumers in Wisconsin will soon have a more convenient, responsible way to dispose of old computers, printers, televisions, VCRs and other electronic waste (e-waste) containing toxic substances, after the State Senate today gave final approval to Senate Bill 107, a bill that requires the manufacturers of these products to provide consumers with access to places with proper collection, recycling and disposal for unused electronic waste.

“Families across the state have old and outdated electronics stacked in drawers, basements and garages that they want to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “The bill approved today will allow families to get rid of this old equipment in ways that recycle valuable materials and keep toxic substances out of the air we breathe and water we drink.”

Electronic waste often contains toxic mercury that pollutes Wisconsin lakes, rivers and stream, threatening the state’s fishing industry and endangering human health. Beyond mercury, e-waste often also contains cadmium, lead, chromium and bromated flame retardants. When electronic waste is put into landfills, these toxic substances leach into the ground and water, threatening human and environmental health.

“Before this law, consumers lacked a convenient means of safely and properly disposing of these harmful products,” said Smith. “We applaud the foresight of our legislators for recognizing this growing need and taking steps to ensure consumers have access to properly dispose of these dangerous substances.”

The previous system for properly disposing of e-waste proved inefficient, with only 10 percent of electronics properly recycled.

“By making it easier for consumers to properly dispose of electronic waste, this law will have a substantial impact on the health of our environment,” said Smith. “Clean Wisconsin’s office alone recycled over 400 pounds of e-waste last year. Imagine what benefits we can see when all offices, homes and business in Wisconsin have convenient access to places where they can properly recycle toxic e-waste.”

The bill now needs only the signature of Governor Doyle to become law.