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Recycling electronic waste presents major challenges

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NORTH HEMPSTEAD, NEW YORK

"People have been buying electronics for a long time, and they tend to keep electronics for a long time," he said in a telephone interview. "But it's a maturing industry, and we're beginning to see significant waste streams."

Recycling a computer usually means taking the valuable metals out of it and selling them. Michael Lodick, president of Electronics Recycling Technologies, in Buffalo, which handles e-waste for a number of public and private customers including North Hempstead, said some computers were refurbished and sold to schools. But most end up disassembled, sorted, crushed and melted down to elemental parts.

The six states that now require recycling of electronics -- have each taken slightly different tacks, but the conflicts their lawmakers confronted were almost always the same, said Lynn Rubinstein, executive director of the Vermont-based Northeast Recycling Council, which lobbied for some of the bills. Who would collect the stuff? Who would recycle it?

And most of all, who would pay? The question of financing, she said, was always a core issue.

Similar issues are in play in negotiations over drafts of a New York law expected to be introduced when the Legislature reconvenes next year by State Senator Carl Marcellino, a Long Island Republican who recently headed a 10-state task force on e-waste.

"Is it fair to charge people buying something today for recycling other people's equipment that is 5 or 10 years old?" asked Debbie Peck Kelleher, an assistant to Senator Marcellino.

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