Pacific Northwest's E-Waste 'Paradigm Shift' Launches Jan. 1

Pacific Northwest's E-Waste 'Paradigm Shift' Launches Jan. 1

New e-waste recycling laws passed in Oregon and Washington take effect on New Year's Day, requiring electronics manufacturers to recycled old hardware, and promising to spur the growth of responsible e-waste disposal.

The laws, which passed in mid-2007 in Oregon and in 2006 in Washington, require manufacturers to pay for the recycling of their electronics products sold in each state, and is expected to collect as much as 12 million pounds of electronics in Oregon and about 25 million in Washington in the first year alone.

The new laws are among the toughest in the country, and highlight what e-waste and public health advocates say is the best solution to the country's -- and the planet's -- enormous e-waste problem. As we found in researching electronic waste in 2008's State of Green Business report, the mountain of potentially valuable (and often toxic) electronic waste is growing substantially faster than companies and governments are able to collect and recycle it.

In the wake of a harshly critical government report and an eye-opening exposé on television's 60 Minutes newsmagazine, e-waste has spent a lot of time in the limelight this year. And the new laws promise to help turn the tide from what activist groups have called "anarchy" in the e-waste takeback market.

In addition to the Oregon and Washington laws, 15 other states have passed e-waste laws,  including one passed in 2007 in Minnesota that requires much the same of electronics manufacturers in that state.

There are also a host of NGO-supported e-waste recycling programs, including the new E-Stewards certification, created in response to what the groups involved call a failure on the part of the EPA to responsibly deal with waste without shipping it abroad.

Earlier this week, USA Today published a thorough overview of the e-waste issue, and how it is impacting developing countries in particular. The article covers not just E-Stewards and the NGOs pushing for responsible e-waste policies, but reveals that the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department has turned away nearly 1.5 million pounds of improperly exported e-waste destined from the U.S. to China.

Much more news on e-waste is online in GreenerComputing's E-waste & Recycling section. For more on the new recycling laws in the Pacific Northwest, visit Oregon E-Cycles and E-Cycle Washington.