The Cutchogue landfill has been inundated with old televisions, computers, DVD players and monitors since the town began accepting e-waste free of charge on April 1, and town solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck is hoping that the new policy will bring in even more.
Beginning April 1, electronics companies doing business in New York State were required to pay for disposal of their old products. That means manufacturers must now pay a recycling company to buy e-waste from Southold, and residents can now dump it for free instead of paying by the pound.
Last year, Mr. Bunchuck estimated that the town collected 75,000 pounds of electronic waste. This year, he said that contractor WeRecycle!, which is paying the town 3 cents a pound for e-waste, estimates the town will bring in more than 100,000 pounds. Mr. Bunchuck said that his staff had emptied the e-waste recycling bin into a shipping container twice a day over the past weekend.
So far, large-screen television sets sold before flat-screen televisions became the norm, make up the bulk of the e-waste, said Mr. Bunchuck. Each television weighs more than 100 pounds.
Though many electronic products still work when they are brought to the landfill, the state law that makes electronics companies pay for disposal also forbids municipalities from allowing residents to scavenge.
Mr. Bunchuck said that his staff had been busy for the past two weeks explaining to the public why the e-waste area can’t be operated as a reuse center.
“Forty percent of equipment has recoverable data on it,” said Mr. Bunchuck. “We’re not trying to be mean to anybody, but WeRecycle! has a responsibility for making sure people’s information doesn’t get out, and we accept part of that responsibility.”
In addition, many discarded products contain hazardous materials, from leaded glass in television sets to heavy metals used in circuitry.
WeRecycle! of Mt. Vernon is planning in the near future to replace the open container Southold now uses for e-waste with a secure kiosk. Mr. Bunchuck said that WeRecycle! may also provide kiosks for use at other town properties, including at the Peconic Lane Rec Center and the Human Resources Center in Mattituck.
The new state law is part of a wave of regulations being proposed throughout the country to make manufacturers responsible for cradle-to-grave stewardship of their products.
Mr. Bunchuck said he expected that manufacturers of products from paint to pharmaceuticals to light bulbs to batteries would be required to pay for disposal in the near future.
“Manufacturers should share the responsibility for disposal. That way they’re more likely to come up with products that don’t contain hazards,” he said.