Maine Mandates E-Waste Recycling by Manufacturers

A new law went into effect last week making Maine the first U.S. state to force manufacturers of televisions and computer monitors to pay for and handle the recycling of their own outdated equipment. Beyond saving money for the local taxpayers who usually bear the brunt of municipal recycling costs, the long-term aim of the law is to give manufacturers an economic incentive to design less-toxic and easier-to-recycle products.

Reportedly, each computer monitor or television set contains about five pounds of potentially dangerous heavy metals as well as toxic chemicals. Maine’s law follows the lead of the governments of Europe and Japan, which require manufacturers to either take back or pay for the recycling of any electronic equipment (and accompanying packaging material) they produce.

Analysts expect a dozen or more other states—including Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Washington and Wisconsin—to follow suit with similar laws to combat the growing electronic waste (“e-waste”) problem. The federal government has been reluctant to throw the costs of recycling back to manufacturers.