California E-waste Law Still a Bust

Lloyd Billingsley: California’s 2003 Electronic Waste Recycling Act (EWRA) is taking another hit, this time from the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

Sheila Davis, executive director of the watchdog group, told a legislative hearing that the law “is not working,” the Sacramento Bee reported. Last year the Bee revealed that EWRA was “hampered by fraud and lax oversight.”

The state itself is a major offender according to a March 31, 2010 CalWatchdog investigation by Anthony Pignitaro. He revealed that “many state agencies are apparently still throwing computers, television sets, radios, printers, copiers, radios and cell phones into the trash rather than putting them through special recycling efforts.”

In similar style, California’s E-Waste Waste, a 2009 Pacific Research Institute (CalWatchdog’s parent think tank) study by Daniel Ballon, found EWRA “a high risk for fraudulent activities,” and that less than half of the facilities audited were in complete compliance with program rules. Inefficiency was also a hallmark.

To recycle a single electronic item, Ballon found, requires “12 distinct transactions across three separate agencies.” As of 2008 expenses grew nearly three times faster than revenue from the program, which cost the state an annual $150 million.

“EWRA is still the only e-waste recycling law that taxes consumers to create a government-run bureaucracy,” Ballon wrote. He recommended “market-driven reforms based on industry-led recycling solutions that can compete without the intrusion of a massive, taxpayer-backed recycling bureaucracy.”

MARCH 11, 2011

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  1. John Steele
    John Steele 12 March, 2011, 08:03

    They charge you so much to turn it in, it’s cheaper and easier to just find a dumpster and toss it in. Make it free and no hassles to recyle it. There are companies now that will buy your old electronics. They advertise on the radio daily

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  2. David from Oceanside
    David from Oceanside 12 March, 2011, 09:15

    Although a market driven response to this problem is certainly our best option, look for more government regulations, additional state employees, and ever greater amounts of fraud, waste and corruption coming out of Sacramento.

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  3. Amy
    Amy 15 March, 2011, 12:52

    Don’t toss it in a dumpster though! Old TVs and computer monitors can contain as much as 8 pounds of lead per unit. You don’t want that sitting in our landfills, do you? Newer models can contain high levels of mercury too–something to do with the coating in the screen.

    Here’s the thing: In California, you already pay a fee to recycle any device with a screen larger than 4 inches. You pay this when you buy your electronic device. So if you end up tossing it in a landfill, you lose the money that you already paid to recycle it. On the same note, you shouldn’t have to pay a second time when you go to recycle your item.

    The system may need to be revised, but e-waste laws are vital. They provide recyclers with the money to recycle responsibly. Now, some still go the cheaper route and export the items overseas. Others will do the right thing and refurbish/resell/ recycle the equipment properly.

    A great company I’ve found in California is All Green Electronics Recycling (if you’re curious, the website is: They have a lot of drop-off locations and host events. The best part is, they’ll recycle them responsibly and for free.

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