New Program for EWaste in Vermont

E-cycling, ewaste, escrap, whatever you call it, just got a big boost on Earth Day.

Some of the larger OEMs have recognized what Vermont has to offer. They see that 84% of Vermonters can recycle a TV or computer 6 days per week, and very few residents have to wait on a "One Day Event" to clean out their surplus electronics.

Once a year or so, some manufacture or corporate do-gooder comes along and sponsors an "EVENT" to clean out ewaste. People hear about an upcoming event. They stop driving to the pay-to-recycle depot. And you get a line of 200 cars. And the recycler gets an overtime everything-at-once headache and less material at the regular drop-offs for the next few weeks. These were appropriate to get the infrastructure started, and may still be the only way to get e-waste collected in other parts of the country.

But it kind of looks like Starbucks "Free Coffee" day on the parking lot. By far, more TVs and computers are recycled at the regular $10-per-TV program open 6 days per week in their county. The attraction is the word free, it doesn't prove that people won't pay the regular fee every 5 years or so when a TV goes ka-blooey. If I held an event and paid $5 per TV on the same day as a free program, I'd have a line of cars, but it wouldn't prove that people won't recycle for free.

The trick is to make TV recycling commonplace and convenient, and not to charge any more than a bridge toll. Most Vermonters have been to New York City once in the past five years, but not many could recall the George Washington Bridge toll if you asked them.

The biggest e-waste collection event of the past year was probably Sony's. They collected TVs and computers from 3,494 cars in Foxborough, Massachusetts last September, over 500 tons. There are other OEMs sponsoring events in Vermont. I am not against these "events", but the coupon program is a way to channel manufacturer involvement to support an ongoing, established, common-sense program. We don't have "events" for mattresses, white goods, refrigerators, auto batteries, or tires, and those are collected at about 85% rates throughout the country. Our little coupon program, we hope, will strengthen the existing infrastructure, lower fraud, and let every participant know who is participating in the solution.

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