Old Electronics Worry Environmentalists In W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginians have recycled nearly 3.4 billion tons of computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronics since 2002.

Yet it's the mountainous pile that ended up in landfills that is raising environmental concerns.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates 82 percent of the electronics Americans discard each year are dumped in landfills where they pose a threat to groundwater.

Electronics contain lead, mercury, brominated flame retardants and cadmium. One television alone contains about seven pounds of lead.

Last year, West Virginia passed a law that encourages manufacturers to recycle outdated electronics while providing funding for special collection events, but Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority Chairman Clint Hogbin said it's not enough. He wants the state to ban electronics from landfills.

"I think West Virginia needs to do that before we wake up and have a problem at our landfills," he said.

West Virginia is one of 19 states and New York City with laws requiring recycling programs for old electronics in which various metals, plastic and glass are salvaged for use in other products. Similar legislation is being considered in 13 other states.

West Virginia requires manufacturers that produce at least 1,000 electronic products a year to pay an initial fee of $10,000 and $5,000 annually if they don't have approved recycling programs and an initial $5,000 fee followed by $500 annually if they do.

To date, the state has collected about $400,000, said Sandy Rogers, director of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan.

The DEP has used that money to award grants for electronic recycling programs across the state, including ones in Greenbrier, McDowell and Raleigh counties.

In August, some Berkeley County residents waited in traffic for more than an hour to discard nearly 37 tons of old electronics, enough to fill four 53-foot tractor trailers.

Hogbin said more collections are needed to discourage people from illegally dumping unwanted electronics over hillsides.

Linda Frame, program director for West Virginia-Citizens Action Group, says her organization would support any new electronic recycling legislation, but she was unaware of any planned by lawmakers.

"We really need to get on board with what's going on nationally," she said.

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