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Piles of electronic waste wait to be picked up at the Crawford County Solid Waste Management District’s Marengo recycling center. It is now against state law to include electronic waste in regular trash pickups; however, for a nominal fee, the Marengo recycling center will accept e-waste and dispose of it properly. Photo by Lee Cable

State pulls plug on trashing electronics

January 19, 2011
A new Indiana law makes it illegal to throw televisions, monitors, computers and many other electronic devices in regular trash pickups.

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, prohibits small businesses, schools and households from knowingly mixing electronic waste with municipal or other waste intended for disposal to a landfill or incinerator. It is a provision of a law passed in 2009 that holds certain electronics manufacturers responsible for collecting and recycling a percentage of the products they sell in Indiana.

While the new law does not carry any penalties for violation of the requirement and does not prohibit solid waste haulers, transfer stations or landfills from accepting electronic waste (e-waste), the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is asking that solid waste collection and disposal businesses educate their customers on the prohibition. Most Indiana counties now have recycling centers, and many of those accept electronic waste.

"We've been taking electronic waste for about six years, so this is not new for us," said Tina Bowman, director of the Crawford County Solid Waste Management District, which oversees the county's three recycling centers. "We charge a small fee to take electronics like televisions, computers, monitors, printers and other items, but we have to pay to have them taken away from here, as well."

The Crawford County recycling centers are located at English, Marengo and Leavenworth, and each accepts almost everything that can be recycled. But the electronics can only be accepted at the Marengo site where there is a small warehouse to store them until they are picked up.

"It's amazing how recycling has caught on with people," Bowman said. "We now have over 50 percent of the households in Crawford County participating in recycling, and it makes a huge difference."

There was a time when many household items could not be recycled, and several ended up in small dumps, sinkholes and along the county's roadways. But some of the most polluting items, like batteries, can now be recycled, and each recycling center has a container just for batteries, both automobile batteries and smaller, household dry-cell batteries (like flashlight batteries).

"And we also take used oil," Bowman added. "And there's no fee to drop off most items, like batteries and oil."

Other items accepted at the centers include used oil filters, fluorescent bulbs with mercury, glass, paper, aluminum cans, plastic No. 1 and No. 2 (numbers located on bottom of container), plastic milk jugs, plastic six pack rings, newspapers (bundled with string or in brown paper bags), magazines, books, crayons, corrugated cardboard (no wax), paperboard, mercury thermometers, antifreeze, glass (clear, green and brown) and even old tires.

"We charge $1.25 for most tires," Bowman said, "and we charge $2.50 if they are still on a rim. And we accept appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, grills, humidifiers and air conditioners. There is a $5 fee for these items, unless they contain freon, then the fee will be $10."

The new law that covers the disposal of electronics states that IDEM will not take any action against those who violate the electronic prohibition. However, local governments can choose to enforce the prohibition, including not allowing their waste haulers to pick up e-waste.

In Crawford County, the English recycling center is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Marengo site is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Leavenworth center is open on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit www.crawfordcountysolidwaste.org or call 338-2728.

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