E-Waste Laws That Aren’t Quite Working

E-waste laws in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states make it illegal to place various electronic devices in the trash. In Pennsylvania, the law focuses on televisions, computers, computer peripherals, mobile devices, and batteries. Different jurisdictions have different lists. All seem to be having the same problems. In New Jersey, these electronic devices are picked up with materials for recycling, but no one knows what to do with the electronic debris after it is collected. In Pennsylvania, it is individual citizens’ responsibility to find a way to get an electronic device recycled, and so far the government isn’t providing much help. The state web page that is supposed to list drop-off locations for electronic trash only says that the information is not yet available.

The United States might need to seek help from Germany, which has had a little more success disassembling and recycling electronics. But as long as disposal problems remain unresolved, the e-waste laws could hurt the already faltering sales of personal computers. If buying a new PC means you first have to figure out what to do with the one you already have, and no one has the answer to that question, you might want to put off that transaction. PCs last much longer than they used to, so the PC replacement could plausibly by postponed for five or ten years.

This essay originally appeared in The Shamanic Economist.

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