New York becomes first city in U.S. to pass electronics recycling law

The New York City Council passed groundbreaking legislation (Intro. 104-A) today that would institute a city-wide electronics recycling program for the 25,000 tons of discarded electronics the City collects annually, making it the first major municipality in the nation to tackle the rising tide of discarded electronics in the waste stream.

“Every time you turn around there’s a new iPod or iPhone, a new slimmer laptop or a bigger TV enticing you to purchase it,” said Kate Sinding, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in the press release. “With the speed at which we upgrade our gadgets these days, it’s no wonder that electronics are the fastest-growing part of our waste stream. But now, with the City’s adoption of a 21st-century recycling measure, New York has found a solution that will undoubtedly become the model for other jurisdictions around the nation.”

The law, sponsored by 47 council members, requires computer, TV and MP3 manufacturers to take responsibility for the collection of their own electronic products when New Yorkers want to dispose of them. The measure will save the city money and give manufacturers the incentive to design less toxic and easier-to-recycle products. The city’s Department of Sanitation will have to approve each manufacturer’s collection plan, which could include curbside collection, drop-off events or mail-in programs.

“New Yorkers now have a clear, simple answer to the question: ‘What do I do with my old iPod, TV, or computer?’” said Sinding. “And, finally, all those old electronic products collecting dust in our homes can be disposed of properly, affording us a little extra closet space as well.”

Old electronics account for about 40 percent of the lead found in municipal landfills as well as mercury, cadmium, and other toxic heavy metals in landfills and municipal incinerators. Currently, much of New York City’s electronic waste is burned in the Newark incinerator, polluting the air in New York and New Jersey with heavy metals.

“We now have a smarter way to deal with old electronics that doesn’t include burning them or burying them in landfills,” said Sinding. “And it is a system that both taxpayers and business can get behind. We consumers can now get rid of our electronics in an environmentally responsible way and companies can now recover and reuse valuable materials instead tossing them aside in ways that will come back to haunt us. Speaker Quinn, chief sponsor Bill de Blasio and Sanitation Committee chair Michael McMahon, along with the rest of the bill’s sponsors, deserve a great deal of credit for passing this measure, which Mayor Bloomberg should quickly sign into law.”

The new measure also received broad support from major corporations, such as Apple and GE, and Tekserve, one of New York City’s largest computer retailers. Nearly two dozen environmental groups also supported the measure, including the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the League of Conservation Voters, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

The law requires companies to begin collecting old equipment in July 2009. Starting in July 2010, the Department of Sanitation will no longer accept electronic products covered in the bill for collection and can fine manufacturers if they fail to submit approvable plans and/or fail to meet specific performance standards in implementing them. By 2012, manufacturers must take back at least 25 percent (by weight) of their current sales for recycling or reuse; by 2015 they must collect 45 percent, and by 2018, manufacturers must collect at least 65 percent of their current sales.

Source: The Natural Resources Defense Council


  1. Well that’s just great. Tree hugging MAC sheep have opened the door to allow governments to decide how to dispose of our electronics. It reeks of socialism. I say let the market decide. There’s a privatized solution which will work much more efficiently than any government can.

    That way people will have a choice in how they deal with their electronic waste. It’s all about choice, just like Microsoft is about choice. I can buy a Dell with Vista or a Gateway with Vista. I can get an RCA MP3 player or a Sansa MP3 player. All great choices. In the Windows world it’s known as the freedom to choose. You MAC lemmings have no idea. I call upon fellow Windows enthusiasts to stand together against NYC’s injustice.

    Your potential. Our passion.™

  2. “But now, with the City’s adoption of a 21st-century recycling measure, New York has found a solution that will undoubtedly become the model for other jurisdictions around the nation.”

    This is what I hate about New York, they think the country revolves around them. Excuse me, but we hicks in the rest of the country will get along fine without the New York model of political correctness.

    I don’t know if the intro to The Late Show with David Letterman is tongue-in-cheek (from New York, the greatest city in the world), but I guess they’ve never heard of Paris, or London, or Rome etc. Ironic that New York is #4 on Forbes’ America’s Most Miserable Cities list.

  3. We’ve had an electronics recycling fee here in California for several years, and it’s made it much easier to get rid of old electronic hazmat.

    The older stuff can be downright dangerous, folks – proper disposal can save a lot of hassle. If you want a really good example of what can happen when you DON’T have proper disposal of hazmat, google “Times Beach Missouri”.

    mw: method, as in “Use the proper recycling method for the material in question.”

  4. neomonkey:

    … and quite possibly the lowest crime rate in the continental United States for a metropolitan area.

    Forbes? Are you kidding me… what the hell demographic do they represent? No one I know!

    And in any event, if it’s so miserable how come the richest zip code in the whole country is 10021; The people who give the most money to both Democrats and Republicans is zip code 10021; second richest is 10022. Strange how everyone wants to live here though.

    Jeez, what an asshat… try thinking before speaking

  5. By the way, more power to the city council on this issue. I’m a New Yorker and all for this. As ’emmayche’ comments above, California’s had something similar for a while.

    Bring on congestion charging too, let’s reduce the number of friggin’ SUVs and cars in general entering Manhattan… they consume way too much of the road and resources anyhow.


  6. For those not the know, it’s incredibly cool to see Tekserve mentioned as “One of the largest Electronics retailers” because they have been THE Mac stalwart for decades. In fact, it would not be surprising to hear that Apple modeled their own retail establishment, geniuses and all, on Tekserve’s operation…. though the latter’s asthetic is much more dingy warehouse than sci-fi shangri-la.

    And asshat neomonkey: if you don’t like it you don’t need to live there. You’re assumptions about New Yorkers’ attitudes speaks more to your insecurity than their supposed arrogance. They can take pride in living in one of the most cultural, technologically, and economically advanced cities in the world and you can take pride in the pastoral beauty that you no doubt choose.

  7. Wow, a US city doing this, a nice step to getting caught up with Europe.

    It is not surprising to hear Zune Thang wave the AENUS (Australia, England ‘N United States) hate flag towards the Mac and golly gee, socialism of all things. How dare someone put people before profits. Then again that should not be surprising, after all the success of “aim for Bin, hit Saddam” guidance system shows how AENUS is just interested making a big bang regardless of whether or not the target is hit. Then again when you have such hate and disdain for everybody, there is no need to aim.

    Microsoft may well be about choice, that should be expanded, for not only can you have Dell and Gateway with Vista, you can have Mac with Vista as well. Not only that, but the choice seems to be having Dell, Gateway and Macs with XP, possibly decided by the free enterprise market that has enough semblance of intelligence to realize how much of a piece of junk Vista really is.

    Some people really enjoy being in the Windows world. Others prefer being with the true universe, a choice that Microsoft just can’t seem to get.

    New York gets it and are following the recycling leaders. It is a nice step forward towards environmental justice.

    The power to recycle.™

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