That aging computer you bought for $600 five years ago could cost you an additional $500 if you fail to recycle it under provisions of a new Oregon law that takes effect Jan. 1.
Every computer, monitor or television has to be recycled. Owners risk a fine of as much as $500 if they dump electronic equipment in the garbage or a landfill, and each item that isn't properly recycled could be considered a separate violation.
Source: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
For Jackson County residents, there are more than a dozen recycling centers that have agreed to collect electronic gear. Under Oregon law, these centers must accept the items free of charge.
The free recycling program does not include keyboards, mice, speakers, printers, scanners or other types of electronics or appliances.
To find a center near your home or more information about recycling, go to www.oregonecycles.org.
For people who are worried about important data on old computers falling into the wrong hands, the Web site provides information about ways to erase hard drives. Software can be downloaded that destroys any information that might be on the disk.
Customers are responsible for getting rid of any information on their discarded hard disk, said Amy Roth, e-waste technical specialist with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Computers, monitors and televisions contain hazardous and toxic substances that can be harmful to human health and the environment if not disposed of properly. Roth said an average television, for example, contains four to eight pounds of lead and traces of cadmium or mercury.
Electronic products also contain other valuable substances, such as minute amounts of gold, that can be salvaged.
Used electronic gear is the fastest-growing segment of the waste stream in the U.S., Roth said. Requiring manufacturers to recycle their products will help in other ways, too.
"It provides an incentive to make the products easier to be recycled and make them less toxic," she said.
The collected equipment is sent to businesses in Oregon, Washington and California that break them down, but extracting some of the materials happens outside the United States. Glass from old televisions must be sent to Mexico to remove the lead because there is no place in this country that can process them, she said.
At Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Medford, executive director Jack Boje has been collecting boxes and boxes of electronic gear. He salvaged some of it to build computers for sale or to donate to a needy family.
As a participant in the program, the ReStore receives 6 cents a pound for the items recycled, he said.
The store, at 160 N. Fir St. in Medford, sells recycled construction materials such as doors and windows, but also has printers and other computer equipment. Boje estimated he has about 70,000 pounds of construction materials on his floor that are not sent to the dump.
"We're just trying to do our part," he said. "The main thing for me is to keep (construction materials and electronics) out of the landfill."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.