Oregon law affects e-waste rules

County centers must stop accepting some items without charge

By Erik Robinson, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County residents will feel the impact of a new Oregon law banning the landfilling of old electronic equipment.

Washington residents have been able to get rid of old televisions, computers and monitors for free, thanks to a state law that took effect at the start of this year requiring manufacturers to underwrite a statewide electronics recycling program. Goodwill, among other outlets, collects the e-waste at no charge.

Oregon’s new law, which takes effect at the start of the year, indirectly applies to Clark County.

That’s because all of the county’s business and residential garbage is loaded onto barges near West Van Materials Recovery Center in the Vancouver Lake lowlands. It’s then barged up the Columbia River to the Finley Butte landfill in Boardman — on the Oregon side of the Columbia.

“Our transfer stations cannot knowingly accept computers, monitors and TVs,” said Jim Mansfield, a Clark County waste reduction specialist. “They have to have some process to make sure they’re excluded from the waste stream.”

Residents who haul old tubes to a local transfer station will be charged $15 for disposal as of Friday.

That may be a particularly painful fee, in light of the fact that there are plenty of places where residents can take the e-waste for no charge.

“That’s what we’re telling people to do,” said Scott Campbell, district manager for Columbia Resource Co.

Columbia operates West Van, along with Central Transfer and Recycling Center the Washougal Transfer Station.

In 2006, the state Legislature passed a law requiring manufacturers to underwrite a statewide electronics recycling program. The law, which took effect at the start of this year, enables all Washington residents to return old televisions, computers and monitors for free rather than discarding the hazardous material in a landfill.

Never-ending stream

Much of the electronic waste contains lead, hexavalent chromium, mercury and flame-retardant material in the plastic shells.

As technology evolves, waste managers worry about a never-ending stream of newly obsolete gadgets piling up in illegal forest dump sites or ending up in landfills, where the sheer amount of material threatens to leach into groundwater.

An online database, maintained by the state Department of Ecology, lists 15 sanctioned e-waste collection sites in Clark County at fortress.wa.gov/ecy/recycle/. The free disposal law applies to households, small businesses, school districts, small governments, special purpose districts and charities.

The same privilege does not extend to large businesses such as CRC.

“We have to separate it from the solid waste, palletize it, load it and ship it,” Campbell said. “There will be a $15 fee, but that’s pretty much a pass-through fee.”

Just down the road from Campbell’s office at West Van, IMS Electronics Recycling collects and processes a wide range of old electronic equipment at no charge for households. IMS, located in the Port of Vancouver at 2401 St. Francis Way, is one of two e-waste processors in the state.

It doubles as a collection site for old electronic devices.

“Bring them to us,” operations manager David Palenshus said. “We are excited to be here, and to offer this service.”

Erik Robinson: 36-735-4551, or erik.robinson@columbian.com.