Law passed in 2013 has had a positive impact, yet is still largely ignored
Energy conservation and environmental preservation have become focal points for the nation over the last two decades, no more so than in Colorado, where job creation and innovation in the environmental sectors continue to thrive.
This week for Earth Day, La Vida Latina takes a look back on an electronic waste law enacted in 2013 to see just how well people are keeping there electronics out of the trash.
Electronic waste dumping has been illegal in Colorado since July 2013 when a law was put in place prohibiting Coloradans from throwing used electronic items in the trash.
Yet many people aren’t sure why.
“I didn’t even know it was illegal,” said Kevin Torres, 28, of Aurora. “I haven’t thrown electronics away myself, but I know I’ve seen TVs and stuff lying on the side of the road every once in a while.”
The electronic waste law was designed to keep electronic waste out of landfills. When the bill was signed in 2012, Colorado was only one of 17 states in the nation prohibiting e-waste in landfills – a number that has since rose to 20.
In Colorado the ban includes video display devices, computers, printers, computer peripherals, computer monitors and televisions. Cell phone regulations already exist under a separate law.
“I always take my electronics – like TVs and stuff – to a Best Buy or some other retailer,” said Cindy Marks, 23, of Denver. “I didn’t know there was a law about throwing it away, but it makes sense since it’s a major environmental hazard.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electronic waste in landfills is one of the most harmful components of municipal waste.
“Electronic waste contains toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury,” states an EPA study on municipal solid waste issued in 2014. “These toxic materials entering landfills can threaten the quality of air, water and soil. Discarded electronics account for as much as 70 percent of heavy metals in landfills.”
Of course the harm can go far beyond landfills as the same toxins can burden what is still one of the Centennial state’s principle industries: agriculture.
“Harmful chemicals can leach out of electronic waste and contaminate soil and groundwater,” the EPA reported.
The other side of the electronic waste coin was job creation. At the time Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law in 2012, experts speculated at least 130 jobs would be created as a direct product of the bill passing into law and an additional 2,500 jobs would be created over time.
Much like agriculture was Colorado’s booming industry for most of the 20th Century, energy has become the state’s mecca of innovation in the current century.
“Energy jobs are integral to the health of Colorado’s economy,” reads the 2014 Colorado State Energy Report. “The energy industry currently employs more than 122,000 people in Colorado, representing job growth of 56.2 percent since 2003, and is estimated to have produced more than $41 billion in revenue in 2012.”
Electronic recycling is a powerful tool to keep the environment safe; however, it’s a tool few people know how to use.
“I honestly wouldn’t even know where to start,” Torres said. “I think a lot of people think that way, that’s why you see a lot of old TVs, computers and what-not in dumpsters and on the side of the road or dumped somewhere behind an electronics store. People just don’t know what to do.”
According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment the first thing an individual needs to know regarding recycling electronic goods is where to find a registered electronic recycler. The department provides a list of 58 registered recyclers throughout the state, although it does warn that most electronic recycling programs require a fee.
For the full list of registered electronic recyclers visit www.colorado.gov/cdphe/ewaste.