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Goodwill to become electronics recycler

Sat., Sept. 13, 2008

State law will pay companies to process, transport discards

Starting Jan. 1, Washington residents will no longer need to pay a recycler to take old computers and TVs off their hands.

Instead, a new state e-waste reduction law that takes effect that day will pay recyclers to handle and transport electronic components to processors, who will break them down for reuse.

Once the program begins, the largest Spokane recycler will be Spokane’s Goodwill Industries. The nonprofit has for years accepted electronic products at its four Spokane stores and at seven other county drop-off sites.

Goodwill has repaired or refurbished the items with value, and the rest have been hauled off to landfills or the regional Waste-to-Energy Plant.

Come January, Goodwill Industries will accept all TVs, PCs, laptops and monitors and transport them to any of three approved processors.

The effect of the law will turn the nonprofit agency into a large-scale recycler, said Diane Galloway, deputy director of corporate communications for Goodwill Industries.

“We made an organizational commitment that we want to be responsible stewards in reducing the volume of such products entering the waste stream,” Galloway said.

“We also see this as a cost-cutting measure,” she said, noting that Goodwill Industries will save thousands of dollars in dumping fees for the equipment it currently throws away.

“We’ll start advertising over the next few months to let people know that we are a collector of those items,” said John Stine, Goodwill’s transportation director.

Spokane County residents now pay a recycler a small charge to dispose of computers or TVs.

The state’s new oversight agency, the Washington Materials Management and Financing Authority, will set handling and transport fees that will compensate recyclers like Goodwill Industries.

In addition to 11 Goodwill Industries sites in Spokane County – and the Salvation Army location on North Division Street – the state expects to enroll another five or six locations in Spokane County, said John Friedrick, executive director of the state agency. The 2006 law allows local recyclers to opt out of the program and continue charging for recycling.

The state plan will also offer alternate collection options for small businesses, small local governments, school systems and charities.

Friedrick estimated it will cost between $8 million and $10 million to run the program next year.

The costs of handling and transporting the items will be divvied up among the major U.S. producers of those electronic machines and devices. How much each producer will pay to handle the e-waste will be based on the company’s statewide product sales and the rate their products are being recycled.

“We anticipate this program will handle between 20 million and 25 million pounds” of those covered electronic components, Friedrick said.

In other states where similar programs have been enacted, manufacturers say they typically raise local prices by a small amount to offset the program’s costs.

The commitment by Goodwill Industries is a big step in helping properly handle and recycle Spokane County’s electronic waste, Friedrick said.

“The state (e-waste) program is a good fit for them. They’re already out in the community, and they don’t have to reinvent efforts like transportation,” he said. “People are very familiar with them.”

Friedrick said that while other states have passed similar laws, Washington’s is the most encompassing and ambitious.

“No other state has required a collection site in every county in the state.” he said.

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