By Colin Hickey, staff writer
WATERVILLE — If you’re an individual with a computer monitor or a TV to discard, Maine is the right place to live.
An e-waste law passed nearly two years ago went into effect earlier this month that requires manufacturers to pay at least a portion of the transportation cost of recycling both monitors and television.
Thanks to the law any Maine resident can drop off either form of e-waste right now at no charge at the Pine Tree Waste transfer station in Waterville, said Stu Axelrod, a general manager with Pine Tree Waste.
Before the law went into effect, individuals had to pay $30 to discard a console TV, $18 for smaller television and $15 for a computer monitor — commercial customers must still pay the fees because they are not covered under the law.
Carole Cifrino, an environmental specialist with the Department of Environmental Protection, said Maine is the only state in the nation that makes manufacturers contribute such a large share of the recycling cost of e-waste.
DEP estimates that up to 100,000 televisions and computer monitors are discarded annually in Maine.
Cifrino said lead is the chief concern. One large cathode ray tube, she said, can contain up to eight pounds of lead.
Heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium are other concerns associated with e-waste, she said.
Axelrod applauds the law, although he said his company gains no financial benefits from the legislative action.
“What the state has done is a good thing,” he said. “They have gone to the manufacturers who sell stuff that basically is harmful to the environment and told them you have to take some stewardship to ensure it doesn’t end up hurting the environment.”>/p>
Cifrino said the challenge was creating the structure to make the law practical.
That task has been largely completed with the designation of five “consolidators” in the state, including the Pine Tree Waste facility in Waterville.
Axelrod said his company will continue the no-charge policy for Maine residents while the program gets established.
Even once the system is entrenched, Axelrod said Pine Tree Waste will charge residents only a slight fee to cover operational costs.
Pine Tree Waste does none of the actual recycling. Instead, Axelrod said, his company ships the e-waste to Portsmouth, N.H., where a company called UniWaste Services Corp. takes care of that task.
Axelrod said UniWaste separates the lead from the glass found on the cathode ray tubes of TVs and computer monitors. That glass is then sold to be used again in the glass market, he said.
Pine Tree Waste and other state-designated consolidators are responsible for billing manufacturers the transportation charges. In order to get full reimbursement, Axelrod said, 16,000 pounds of e-waste must be shipped in each load.
Axelrod doesn’t expect to generate loads that large in Waterville, but he said even getting manufacturers to pay part of the transportation is a good deal in his mind.
“I’m very supportive of this program,” he said. “I think Carole Cifrino and DEP have done a really outstanding job at addressing what is a very serious environmental issue.”>/p>