If you are like many Westchester residents, you may have dozens of unwanted computer monitors, keyboards, printers, and old TVs around the house. Some of these items can cause harm if disposed in the trash. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) – the primary component in old computer monitors and televisions – contain lead that can potentially contaminate land, air, and water resources. If you have decided to get rid of e-waste, there are several options for environmentally-sound disposal in Westchester. First, think about donating any useable items, if possible.
Examples of items you could donate for reuse include:
- computers (desktops, monitors, and notebooks)
- computer mice and keyboards
- fax machines
- cell phones
The New York State electronic waste disposal ban went into effect on January 1, 2015. Consumer electronic waste may not be collected or disposed of as garbage, as required by the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act.
You can visit the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's Web site for a full list of the types of electronic equipment covered by this law and to learn how to properly manage your electronic waste in an environmentally-responsible manner.
Many Westchester County municipalities offer drop-off programs or curbside pickup for their residents. E-waste drop-off containers are located at some municipal DPW yards throughout the county. Contact your local Municipal Recycling Office for more details. You can also bring your e-waste to the Household Material Recovery Facility.
Please refer to the special household waste page for other household items that require special handling.
Many electronics retail centers and most manufacturers also offer take-back programs to their customers. For instance, electronics are accepted for recycling at all Best Buy stores throughout the county. You can learn more about each manufacturer’s plan through information provided by the New York State Department of Conservation or by visiting the manufacturer’s website. Also, be sure to check out the Environmental Protection Agency's donation and recycling tool.
Non-residential organizations such as local businesses, schools and institutions should use the Electronics Recycling Markets list of known CRT recyclers or contact the county's Recycling HelpLine at (914) 813-5425 for further information.
Another option for cell phones, laptops, cartridges and other similar items is Cartridges for Kids, a recycling organization who pays schools and non-profit organizations for these items.
E-waste is one of the fastest growing components of solid waste in the United States. It’s no wonder, considering the speed with which these electronic products are replaced with newer, faster, sleeker versions.
In 1998, the National Safety Council Study estimated about 20 million computers became obsolete in one year. Now that number has more than doubled according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) most recent estimates. As technology develops, even more products will be considered e-waste, as circuit boards are added to conventional household appliances.
What concerns solid waste managers is not just the growth in volume and bulkiness of these items – it’s the toxicity of their components. Old TVs can contain up to seven pounds of lead. Besides lead, other contaminants such as mercury, nickel and cadmium can find their way into the water and food supply due to incineration or landfill operations. In 2009, the EPA estimated that up to 75 percent of electronic items are discarded as regular household waste.
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimated that 50 to 80 percent of discarded electronics are exported to developing countries, such as China, where the cost of labor is lower in the absence of environmental legislation or workplace safety standards. Some academic research suggests that the cycle continues, with non-biodegradable toxins returning to the United States in manufactured goods and food products. Another key concern of exporting e-waste is increasing rates of identity theft, from information recovered from hard drives. “The Electronic Wasteland” from CBS’s 60 Minutes, is an interesting news feature on the consequences of improperly handled electronic exports.
Westchester County takes these concerns very seriously: all materials collected by the county are delivered to a licensed electronic waste dismantler that removes and erases information on data storage devices, dismantles all components, and sells materials directly to electronics manufacturers domestically and abroad. In 2013, the county diverted over 1,700 tons of electronics from residents, which would otherwise have been incinerated.