Under the law recently signed by Gov. David Paterson, all manufacturers that sell electronic equipment in the state must have a free, convenient electronic waste, or "e-waste," recycling program in effect by April 1, 2011.
The law also makes it illegal for individuals to dispose of electronic waste at landfills, effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Kate Sinding, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, calls New York's bill "the most progressive, best researched e-waste bill in the country," building on successful e-waste laws in Washington, Oregon and Minnesota.
Under the new law, each manufacturer will have to recycle or reuse its market share of e-waste by weight, based on its three-year average of annual sales in the state. They'll also have to submit annual reports to the Department of Environmental Conservation documenting that they have met goals for collection and recycling.
The law covers televisions, VCRs, DVD and MP3 players, game consoles, fax machines, and computers and their peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, mice, scanners and printers.
Resa Dimino, special assistant in DEC's policy office, said manufacturers are likely to collaborate and develop single collection locations in large communities that will handle all materials. That's been the trend in other states, she said.
"Because they must meet a performance standard, we've created an incentive for manufacturers to collect as much material as possible," Dimino said.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 14.9 pounds of electronic waste per person was awaiting disposal in the United States in 2007, the latest figure available. The agency says the electronics recycling rate nationally is about 13 percent.
Junked electronics represent one of the nation's fastest-growing waste streams. The machines contain both precious metals and toxic pollutants and are piling up in garages or dumped overseas.
The state law, which has broad industry support, pre-empts a New York City recycling law that was the subject of an industry lawsuit that is now moot.
Still No National Law
Several e-waste bills have been introduced in Congress over the years but none has passed, leading states to take action on their own.
Manufacturers have said a uniform federal law would be better than having to comply with a patchwork of regulations from different states. Ultimately, that would make sense, Sinding said. "But we want to see how different approaches are working before going to a one-size-fits-all approach."
The Information Technology Industry Council and Consumer Electronics Association released a joint statement on New York's new e-waste law. They said electronics companies have already recovered and properly managed billions of pounds of electronics through voluntary and market-driven efforts.
"We are reviewing the details of the new state law to assess how it will be applied and implemented," the groups said, adding that the industry will work with state officials to build "an efficient, fair and successful electronics recycling program for all New Yorkers."